April 26, 2004 2:08 PM   Subscribe

JPEG: worth a 1000 words $1M? "Our patent [for JPEG technology] was on the public record," says Compression Labs. "News: Made a JPEG Image? You're getting Sued!" Is parent company Forgent sue-happy? Did it perhaps not disclose its patent properly? (-via GyrlFilter)
posted by Shane (18 comments total)
time for everyone to switch to PNG.
posted by muppetboy at 2:27 PM on April 26, 2004

Except for the simple fact that PNG doesn't compress photographs well. Time for JPEG2000. It's patented too, but at least that's known up front, so you know you won't be sued for millions ten years from now, and it's way better than JPEG. There's one guy doing some work on a lossy PNG encoder but it looks like poo.
posted by kindall at 2:33 PM on April 26, 2004

... Like everybody moved from Gif to JPG back in the day.
This is ridiculous. After the whoo-ha that was the Gif fiasco, I'm suprised that (a) nobody realised that Jpegs contained patented technology, and (b) the owners of the patent didn't say anything back in 2000.

Plus - Why the fuss now? A quick look on the intraweb shows that the patent has been known about since July 2002.
posted by seanyboy at 2:42 PM on April 26, 2004

Earlier news here.
posted by seanyboy at 2:44 PM on April 26, 2004

... and it seems that, just like the GIF lawsuit by Compuserve way back then, they are suing companies that offer products that are used to create and/or modify jpegs, not users of the output...
posted by TNLNYC at 2:45 PM on April 26, 2004

Well, suing everybody's just worked wonders for SCO and their shareholders.

If they had a legal leg to stand on then they'd have started the lawsuit love train in 2002.

Watch them start to circle the drain.
posted by fenriq at 2:50 PM on April 26, 2004

Also, the company doing it has never actually produced a product and merely bought the IP from another company right? Their entire reason to exist is to sue on behalf of the patent.
posted by mathowie at 2:50 PM on April 26, 2004

The JPEG committee is on it. They basically said they did an exhaustive search when coming up with the baseline standard, and they stand by the royalty-free nature of JPEG.

The fuss is now because Forgent is starting to litigate.
posted by zsazsa at 2:57 PM on April 26, 2004

Can anyone answer whether this is legal? I mean creating something that is okay, but not revolutionary, then letting it become really popular and cashing in on it years down on the road after it has become popular and not to sue anyone until the industry is reliant on it? That's gotta be on shaky legal grounds, no?
posted by geoff. at 3:27 PM on April 26, 2004

geoff, shaky is being kind.
posted by fenriq at 3:32 PM on April 26, 2004

I'm not all that concerned - I suspect Forgent is probably going to render their patent unenforceable as a result of this action.
posted by FormlessOne at 3:37 PM on April 26, 2004

Forgent is probably going to render their patent unenforceable as a result of this action.

Which is a gift, really.
posted by rocketman at 4:10 PM on April 26, 2004

geoff, that's exactly what happened with the GIF algorithm though. GIF was very long in the tooth and nearly ubiquitous before it's owners decided that they were going to shake people down based on it's popularity. If they'd have started the shakedown immediately then I wouldn't have had a problem with. If GIF was novel enough on it's own merits it'd still have become popular. More likely an algorithm would've been produced that was unencumbered by patents.
posted by substrate at 5:03 PM on April 26, 2004

This situation is a bit different from GIF. JPEG was developed by an industry group with rigorous patent research, and agreements with the holders that any patents on the algorithms in baseline JPEG could be used royalty-free.

GIF, on the other hand, was cooked up by Compuserve in 1987 as a way for people to download graphics from their online service. It was known by at least SOME people that Unisys did own the LZW algorithm, which GIF uses, at this time. [reference: this usenet post from 1987] People just kept on using it until Unisys wised up in 1991 and realized that they could enforce their patent on all implementations of the LZW algorithm (including GIF, inside modems, the Unix "compress" program, etc).
posted by zsazsa at 5:34 PM on April 26, 2004

n. the legal doctrine that a legal right or claim will not be enforced or allowed if a long delay in asserting the right or claim has prejudiced the adverse party (hurt the opponent) as a sort of "legal ambush."

There is at least some decent precedent for the argument that prosecution laches should apply in a case such as this. I would say Forgent is in for a fight.
posted by bafflegab at 7:14 PM on April 26, 2004

actually, doesn't the LZW patent expire soon?

when it does, we can all switch back to GIF!

posted by muppetboy at 10:44 PM on April 26, 2004

The LZW patent expired in the USA on June 20, 2003. It is apparently still in force in some other countries.
posted by kindall at 12:29 AM on April 27, 2004

we can all switch back to GIF!


Equal time: JPEG.
posted by soyjoy at 11:37 AM on April 28, 2004

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