I had the impression that it is about the invalidation of at least parts of one of the patents. Maybe they have a client which was sued for infringement. Unfortunately for them I have absolutely no clue what is inside the MP3-patents (I am/was taking care about the “glue” in LAME) and the phone call we had was just some hours before I went into holiday. I referred him to two other developers of the LAME-project which not only should have better knowledge about the parts the lawyer is interested in, but also where probably not in holiday.
We also had a little chat about patents in general, and my opinion was that software patents are not that useful. In the IT world 3 years is a lot of time, technology is already overtaken by new developments most of the time after this time. When assuming that developing something new depending on some technology seen at another place takes at least about 1 year (do not hit me because of this rough estimation without specifying the size of the project or the quality requirements), a software patent which is valid longer than 5 years is more than enough in my opinion. Any company which was not able to make some money with it during this time made something wrong, and blocking the competition because of this is not really a good idea from my point of an user of technology. As an user I want advancements. And as an open source developer I try to produce my own advancements when I can not get them from somewhere else. In this light software patents are not doing good for the “advancement of the human race”.
The lawyer did not try to convince me to the opposite. Either has was too polite, did not care about it, or he silently agrees. He told me he wants to stay in touch with me in some way regarding Open Source and patents. I did not object to this.
As I was curious about the state of this, I contacted the lawyer about it, and the current outcome is not bad. Previously a lot of tries (by other lawyers in the same German court) failed to fight against the particular patent. This time the court did not follow his previous rulings but told that this issue needs to be investigated again (at least this is how I understand this – beware, I am not a lawyer). Maybe we can see a result this year.