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IPIX Shuts Down Free Software Developer - Again 145

Posted by timothy
from the look-around-you-gingerly dept.
l-ascorbic writes: "In 1999, Internet Pictures Corporation (IPIX) started persecuting anyone who made software to produce 360 images. They succeeded in forcing Professor Helmut Dersch, the creator of the GPL Panorama Tools to remove certain functionality from his software. Well, they're at it again. They have now forced him to shut his website. IPIX hold several US patents on remapping fisheye images, and first went after US sites that linked to the PanoTools site. Prof Dersch says he may now have to distribute his software using tricks similar to those needed by GIMP to avoid the Unisys GIF patents."
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IPIX Shuts Down Free Software Developer - Again

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Check out Ford Oxaal's system, which is what IPIX stole and patented. He actually now owns the patent that IPIX only claims to own. http://www.pictosphere.com/real-story.html
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I just love iPIX's 'security' scheme too. Early on, iPIX images were just a large JPEG image wrapped in a simple file format that contained initial orientation information, and other metadata.

    They've now advanced their business model to a per image produced cost, and the images their software produces are time limited (ie: the iPIX viewers will not honor an image once it's key has expired).

    About a year ago, I worked for a company that used iPIX technology, but were getting sick of the cost and wanted to move to a free alternative. However, they had tons of their images locked up in iPIX format. Investing a little time in cracking their encryption, it turns out that it's basically still the old file format with a JPEG inside, so I wrote some code to extract the JPEG images, or extend the viewing life of the iPIX image, and I also wrote a Java applet iPIX-like viewer for iPIX images, that completely ignores the time stamp info. If there's enough interest, perhaps I'll post these tools around...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    > Exactly why do you think he is clueless ?

    Because he thinks *patents* have to be protected. It is not a *view*. It is a *fact* that *trademarks* have to be protected against dilution, but not *patents*.

    > I couldn't agree more with him.

    This doesn't make him right, but it does makes you wrong.

    > That is wrong, patents must also be actively protected.

    Nope. See the UNISYS GIF patent, for example. There is a shitload of other examples of patent hidden for years before using them as weapons or cash-cows (RAMBUS, BT, ...)

    > We wouldn't have much medicine if IP didn't exist. Who would afford to spend billions of dollars on AIDS research if anyone could just copy it when it's done.

    Explain this to any south africa resident.

    > Do you think people spends huge amounts of $$$ on research just because they think it's fun?

    ipix spent very little money on research. They patented something rather obvious (using fishlens to produce 360 images) that was done before.

    Anyway, explain me what good software patents did to software ? Can you give me serious example of software that would not have been developed if it was not patentable (I can give you example of software that have *not* been developed because of existing software patents) ?

    Cheers,

    --fred
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think the point is that the patents shouldn't have been granted in the first place. The methods IPIX uses were known and available long before the issuance.

    In fact, just about any graduate student in astronomy in the 70s and 80s (including yours truly) used these algorithms, and algorithms from which theirs evolved, to remove nonlinear mapping in images. In fact, some telescopes had to use curved glass on photographic plates to remove those "warpages".

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I note that the number of people who seem to be taking the above message completely seriously is just further evidence of the poor reading skills and mediocre intellectual ability of the average slashdot reader.
  • The wealth in the western countries are not made by giving everybodys work away for free.

    Whatever is done in modern western countries brought not just the wealth but also some strange phenomenons like Microsoft domination caused by another phenomenon: pepole unwiling to THINK.

    Btw, it looks like your top goal is wealth. Mine is to be content. While to be content I need some wealth, wealth is not everything I need to be content.

    Those interested in details please read for example Neal Stephenson's "In the Beginning was the Command Line" [spack.org].
    Note: it's quite a long article (it took me 3.5 hours to read) but it is very good.

  • Do you really think it's that good that people who gets paid with tax money can rip off and release for free products that makes businesses die?

    Yes, I do. Because "those people" are not ripping off.

    1. If I'm the taxpayer who payed that development, than I'm avaiting free access to software developed using my money. I do not care about bisunesses "destroyed" by me using my software.
    2. If I'm say Slovak, why should I care about say Amarican businesses destroyed by application developed using my money and released to the world for free? I alredy get what I wanted and paid for.

    So taxpayers are benefiting - they get software for fraction of price because of a lot of people payed development.

    Also point 2 can be taken even further:

    1. I have software I wanted and paid for - I'm content.
    2. I destroyed concurence (more precisely - those who wanted to release same software as proprietary product) in another country making software house in my country more succesfull.

    So my country is also benefiting!

  • Someone could just add their copy of
    the panorama tools to freenet and post the key on
    slashdot.
  • by FFFish (7567)
    Hey, gimme a break. I hadn't had my coffee yet. :)

    --
  • Once again the sheer idiocy of the US patent office is revealed in all its glory.

    Sad thing is the overseas offices are bowing to this idiocy as well and granting the patent in the other countries since it should be ok since it passed in the US.

    The last couple of years I have been so amazed at the sheer lack of common sense or ability to think logically it is not funny anymore.

    I mean, patents on math equations, trademarks on parts/pieces of the english language, patents on vague ideas.

    And they wonder with idiocies like this why suicide rates are high. *sigh*
  • For fun I did a :

    us patent office stupidity

    search on Google.

    Second hit leads to www.patent.gov.uk:

    ''The Amazon "one clicV patent (in the USA) highlights the stupidity of allowing patents on methods. To recap, Amazon combined web-pages, cookies (which store information about web users) and program code to allow users to buy products by simply clicking on a button on a web page. The technology wasn't new or innovative, it just hadn't been combined in exactly the same way. Now other web sites are prevented from offering a similar interface to users because of Amazons patent. The result is the consumer loses out.''

    Nice to see some offices have some sensibility left.
  • This is why Dolby are so successful, for a fee and a balanced royalty anyone can play with their stuff and thus, many do.

    I don't know, he hasn't really had a hit since She Blinded Me with Science, has he?

    Science!

    Caution: contents may be quarrelsome and meticulous!

  • by krb (15012)
    I notice they haven't sued Apple for QTVR yet?

    Those are 3d panoramic images, eh?

    I wonder why? Hmmm.... a mystery.

    Oh! Perhaps it's that Apple's a big fucking company with a cadre of frothy-mouthed pit-bull lawyers of their own who'd likely tell iPIX to fuck off in 15 pages of legalese, unless they were having a bad day in which case they'd bend 'em over and well, i'll leave off there.

    Stupid patent office. God i hate those fuckers.

    -krb-
  • The problem, unfortunately, sounds like it's not a case of the Foobar-Bazbox Fisheye Algorithm (TM) being trademarked. It sounds like IPIX has a patent on fisheye->panorama conversions _altogether_. Which means that no matter how many clever alternate algorithms or methodologies you come up with for converting fisheye images to panoramas, you're still going to be running afoul of the patent.

    In other words, they have the sole and exclusive right to convert fisheye images to panoramas, regardless of how it's done. It's not a matter of "how" you do it, it's that you're doing it in the first place.

    Think about that. It's like saying that a particular tire manufacturer has the sole and exclusive right to make round tires, regardless of the manufacturing method used. It wouldn't be a matter of "how" you made the tires, but that you made them in the first place.

    See how ludicrious that sounds?


    --
  • This guy developed a panoramic imaging system totally independently from iPIX. they are, and have been going after him solely for having a system that does the same thing as their patented system. It has nothing to do with him releasing their "secrets" or any such nonsense; for that matter, a patented process is not "secret" since that's the whole purpose of patents (as several other posters have pointed out.)

    To use the threat of legal action as a way to force small developers or individuals into a particular path of action is reprehensible, and that's one of the biggest issues here. We all understand the concepts of IP, and of the fact that money is what puts food on the table. However, using legal manuevering to crush completely legitimate competition or development is NOT something any of us want to encourage.

    Try reading some of the links and background info before you spew pointless rants. thanks.
  • This is definately something a "decss" style link to the full version of the code from everywhere type campaign might be able to gain ground on.

    --

  • I wasn't arguing one way or another on the issue.

    I was specifically responding to the argument put forth by someone else [slashdot.org] which I believe isn't a very good one.

    I don't believe in software patents as they stand today, but I wasn't arguing for or against this particular one.

  • release their secrets

    Oh, you mean the secrets anyone is able to acquire [164.195.100.11] from the US patent office?

    "Millions" developing? This isn't IBM researching how to improve harddrive data density, this isn't DuPont researching how to create a better weed killer. This is a small company that had an idea (original or not) and patented it. In this case, it took a very small amount of time and effort to create the idea. It could easily have been some guy in the shower thinking about spherical image fields and realizing, "Hey, I bet we can use fisheye images too!".

    Maybe people don't understand, or perhaps you haven't really thought enough about it.

  • Do you put commas in your IP addresses?

  • ... The patent laws were created for one purpose -- to promote progress by encouraging the disclosure of inventions. ...

    Unfortunately nowadays all they serve for is slowing progress by allowing companies to enforce monopolistic schemes on their technology and preventing anybody else from innovating anything if he doesn't reinvent the wheel first!
  • http://www.pixaround.com will probably feel it too, right? Or do they have a license for Ipix technology?
  • Has anyone ever done this sort of transform to map images of the heavens to flat maps?
  • The problem here is that stitching together images is not an "invention", it's just an application of mathematics. Just because they paid a number of people to develop it doesn't make it novel or nonobvious. They certainly have "a freedom to charge for their own honest work", but they shouldn't be able to keep others from doing similar, yet independent, work.

    Any decent programmer with a book on spherical trig, some graphics experience, and the will to do it could create similar software.
  • This Ipix's Press release from their site at the same time.(still
    available:see www.ipix.com press releases Feb 10, 1998)

    JURY UPHOLDS INTERACTIVE PICTURES' PATENTS IN INFRINGEMENT CASE

    Company Now Stands Alone as Provider of Fisheye-Lens-Based Immersive
    Photography

    OAK RIDGE, Feb. 10, 1998 - A United States District Court jury has upheld as
    valid and infringed the core patent upon which IPIX immersive photography
    technology is based.

    The jury's decision provides court-tested validation of the company's core
    patent. The jury held that Interactive Pictures Corporation has the exclusive
    rights to immersive photography created with a fisheye lens. Interactive
    Pictures' patented technology allows users to interact within a photographic
    image. The patented technology represents the building blocks for photographic
    virtual reality and three-dimensional photographic imaging.

    Interactive Pictures filed suit against Infinite Pictures, Inc. of Portland,
    Ore. in October of 1996. Interactive Pictures claimed that Infinite Pictures'
    SmoothMove and RealWorld Navigation Design Series products infringed
    Interactive Pictures', U.S. Patent No. 5,185,667. The jury found for the
    plaintiff, Interactive Pictures, unanimously on all counts of the verdict and
    awarded damages of $1,000,000 to Interactive Pictures. Interactive Pictures
    will request entry of a permanent injunction against Infinite Pictures to
    prevent further marketing of products based on the infringing technology upon
    entry of the jury's verdict by the court.

    "This is the first court test of our patent portfolio and the jury has stated
    loud and clear that IPIX technology is pioneering, unique, and protected,"
    said Jim Phillips, CEO of Interactive Pictures. "A judicially tested and
    vindicated patent portfolio makes Interactive Pictures a much stronger
    company and gives us a tremendous advantage in penetrating new markets and
    growing our company."

    As a result of the decision, Interactive Pictures is now the only company in
    the United States with the rights to use a wide-angle fisheye lens to create
    immersive photographs. Last September, Live Picture Corporation, which also
    had been sued by Interactive Pictures for patent infringement, agreed that
    the Interactive Pictures patents were valid and enforceable. Live Picture
    also agreed to stop its use of fisheye lenses.

    A judgement of infringement also has been entered against Bill Tillman
    awarding Interactive Pictures damages of approximately $967,000. Tillman,
    doing business as Graphic Effects, used the infringing Infinite Pictures
    products on the World Wide Web.

    IPIX immersive photography technology now stands alone in the industry,
    protected by a Federal Court jury decision. The possibility of an emerging
    standard in immersive photography is more likely as a result of this decision.
    With IPIX images as a de-facto standard, doors are open to wider-scale
    marketing of IPIX technology and growth of the company.

    Steven Zimmermann, corporate fellow at Interactive Pictures and co-inventor of
    the patented technology said, "It's incredibly gratifying to know that all the
    hard work we did back in the early 1990's was affirmed by a jury. This is a
    major recognition for all those late nights and weekends. Now we can really
    accelerate this technology into the market and continue to advance it."

    A computer and electrical engineering professor at the University of
    Tennessee and 1978 graduate of MIT was involved in the case from the
    beginning. Dr. Doug Birdwell, Ph.D. served as an expert witness at the trial
    for Interactive Pictures and testified that the Infinite Pictures products
    used technology that infringed on the patented IPIX technology.

    Birdwell said, "The Interactive Pictures patent was a pioneering patent,
    representing an enormous advance over the prior art. The infringer, Infinite
    Pictures, attempted to take the heart of the IPIX technology and the jury
    correctly found that this was infringement of the core Interactive Pictures
    patent."

    Beyond the positive impact on the strength of Interactive Pictures' patent
    portfolio, the case may become a landmark in the field of patent law. This is
    one of the first times that a patent infringement case has successfully been
    brought against a company that used the Internet to commit acts of patent
    infringement. Interactive Pictures was represented by Washington, D.C. patent
    law firm Banner & Witcoff, Ltd.

    By showing that Infinite Pictures sold the infringing products over the
    Internet to customers in Tennessee, Interactive Pictures was able to
    establish jurisdiction for the case in the United States District Court for
    the Eastern Division of Tennessee. Beyond the issue of jurisdiction the
    infringer, Infinite Pictures, sold the infringing product over the Internet
    giving rise to one of the first cases that showed that patent infringement
    occurred through the use of the World Wide Web.

    Speaking of the technology's inventors, Steve Zimmermann and Dr. Lee Martin,
    Phillips said, "Today, as was Thomas Edison, these inventors have been granted
    a chance to profit from their labor and give their revolutionary invention an
    opportunity to succeed in the marketplace."

    For information, contact:
    Ed Lewis, Interactive Pictures Corporation
    phone: 423-482-3000
  • Very true! Work in radians!

    Or, better yet, create a new unit, called the IPIXSucks, where 4096 IPIXSucks is 360 degrees -> power of two means lots of bitshift math options! :)
  • even better: 361 degrees. You would have a complete view, too, and nobody would notice that 1 degree's missing.
    What I don't understand is how they want to force their patents in Europe, since algorithms cannot be patented (at least not in Germany), only implementations.
  • ...and you were too lazy to click the post linked up top [fh-furtwangen.de], it comes down to distributing the bigger tool without the (easily snapped-in) library, then distributing the library for people who can legally use it from a country where it's legal to do so.


    The biggest change will affect PTStitcher and the
    Panorama Tools. I am planning and suggesting a
    procedure similar to the distribution method
    of graphics programs like 'The Gimp'. This program
    has to cope with GIF images and the corresponding
    Unisys patent. The solution is to distribute a
    basic no-GIF version of 'The Gimp'. For users in
    'no-Unisys' countries ( ie where Unisys has no patent),
    there is an optional plug-in to enable GIF. The download
    site (which is also the main Gimp download site) is
    in Finland, which happens to be such a 'no-Unisys'
    country. In some countries (like Germany), the private
    royalty-free use of any patent is allowed, so that
    even some users in 'unisys-countries' might
    be allowed to legally take advantage of this.
    So on my website, there will only be a 'No_Fisheye'
    version of Panorama Tools and PTStitcher (actually,
    this functionality resides in the common library
    pano12.dll/lib). The sources and a 'Fisheye' version
    of pano12.dll/lib could then be downloaded from and to
    'noipix' countries. People who want to use the
    correction capabilities of Panorama Tools, or
    who are using PTStitcher as a multirow-stitcher
    for rectilinear images etc, ie who do not need fisheye
    conversions, can then use my software
    without constant threat from this fine company.
    All others have to decide for themselves.
  • It looks like they probably won't be around much longer, thank god.

    I guess this explains why they think they can get away with a licensing scheme that is per image made, so you have to buy new keys all the time. In Norway one image costs NOK 200, or about $22.
  • Because qtvr is prior art.. it came out years before ipix

    Linus has,in fact,grown,and explosively-JonKatz
  • Pardon this post if it's irrelevant (I didn't look up the patent and read it), but if I remember correctly, Quake (circa 1995?) had 360 degree "fish eye" view.

    I seem to remember at college (Carnegie Mellon - we're big geeks) playing Quake CTF, and one team-mate used to guard our flag in 360deg mode.

    Made it pretty hard to sneak up on him.
    anyone feel like researching this and telling bountyquest?
  • Yes.

    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.
  • Not wishing to be picky - but you could make 361 degree, 720 degree images or similar, and we souldn't notice

    You probably would, however, notice a nice neat line down your image :)

  • Does anyone else notice how many people have created something similar from scratch? What about the whole "Non-obviousness" clause? A good patent link is here: http://www.soyouwanna.com/site/syws/patent/patentF ULL.html
  • Our beloved GIMP logo [slashdot.org]
  • Back in 1999, there were a few panoramic software companies popping up. The nice thing about the development of it is that the math is pretty simple. We had a java applet panoramic image viewer that ran reasonably fast (>10fps) on pentium machines. Figuring out the math took a couple of days, and optimization only took a few weeks.

    The tougher part of the problem is of course the image creation, which we used a specialized 3d rasterization pipeline to accomplish. I'm even named on a patent for some of the technology we used.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Apple's QTVR is quite different from IPIX's technology, although both make panoramic scenes.

    The original QTVR is a cylinder view, with limited ability to look up and down. QTVR uses multiple (12-36 usually) photographs and dynamically distorts them in the QT viewer, something like a branching-frame movie, where one can scrub back and forth (and to alternate track timelines), rather than just watch in sequence.

    IPIX uses a fisheye lens (usually just two shots) and undistorts the view to make a sphere (NOT cylinder). So, they are attacking others who use the sphere, but not Apple.

    This is despite the fact that prior art existed before IPIX's patent was filed. Incidently, IPIX bought the patent from a endoscopic firm (which used the technology to make pictures inside bodies for the medical field), they did not create the technology. Even worse, IPIX charges lame royalties for every IPIX picture. QTVR's are free, and the tools range from free to high end pro prices.

    Also interesting is that in the new QT 5, Apple created a new technology they call Cubic VR, which maps out full up and down panoramic views on a cube rather than a cylinder or sphere. The result is no trouble from IPIX, and the earlier versions of QTVR can PLAY THEM as cylinders!

    Apple rocks, IPIX sucks.

  • all they had to do was get it listed on slashdot. the rest will take care of itself.
  • This [bitey.net] is the main page of the site, but it doesn't have any of his software on it, so it's pretty useless unless you've grabbed the software at some point too...

    --
    Forget Napster. Why not really break the law?

  • I've known about Helmut Dersch for quite a while now, due to my interest in Photoshop filters and QTVR images. (Panorama Tools is/was/will-be available as a Photoshop filter). There are few people for which I have more respect. Helmut is an inspiration and a role model for me, for his efforts to develop image editing software and make it freely available and tirelessly show people how to do things. His software is capable of causing or correcting image distortions with accuracy far greater even than Photoshop's bicubic interpolation- some of the interpolation models Helmut's written are just flat-out incredible! They're over my head as far as understanding how they work, and they run slower, but the results are phenomenal.

    He makes these things available _free_ to advance science and art in general.

    Among the things that will NOT be affected by IPIX are the ability of his software to correct for normal lens pincushion and chrominance distortion (luminance? the darkening of edges of an image), the ability to do wild and very high-resolution distortions for artistic purposes, the ability to take rectangular images and modify them so you can stitch them into a panorama (I actually have a QTVR panorama [airwindows.com] of my old studio's early days, done exclusively with Helmut's tools and hand-stitched (with no stretching) before his software helped you do that).

    Going after Helmut is a crime. I am glad he is showing the same patient methodical attitude that pervades the rest of his work, and plans to work around the problem in reasonable ways.

    My secret fear is that IPIX will try and push its limit, for instance attempting to muzzle Helmut entirely because his algorithms and tools CAN BE used or adapted to the fisheye case. In that event, my outrage would become unbearable- it would be a matter of suppressing the desire to go buy an uzi and HUNT THEM DOWN, and instead settling for scraping together money and paying someone to HUNT THEM DOWN LEGALLY. As in EFF, or some other likely candidate.

    IPIX had better know its limits. I consider too-extensive persecution of a 'open' scientist to be an act of war. It's an act of war against the community of scientific information sharing that got all of us where we are, and I can't consider that a situation for simple workarounds. At some point you have to wage war back, whether that's through lawyers or through DOSing or through people planting rumours and destroying their company's stock price even more, or even, if the persecuted scientist is being threatened with imprisonment or violence, threatening back in kind. So far, the most extensive threat being made has been fines and imprisonment through use of the government as a weapon. In other industries (*cough* music industry *cough*) threat of physical violence has often been a quiet and unremarked additional element. Things are escalating, and if people like IPIX decide they want to start acting like the shadier sides of the music biz in their desire to stamp out all possible competition for their product, there needs to be a response ready.

    I can't believe anyone would try and suppress Helmut Dersch. The question that is obviously on my mind is, how FAR will they go if unchallenged? Who else is being stepped on? And, can we be certain that all the coercive force being applied is strictly confined to narrow legal claims and patent-related demands? Record labels have often been known to use muscle in dealing with radio stations and programming- hell, Bob Marley's rise was partly reliant on just this sort of strong-arming. How do we know if companies like IPIX cross that line? And there are plenty of companies like IPIX :P

  • Adobe Acrobat

    Acrobat Reader is free, Acrobat Distiller or whatever they call the creator is not. Knowledgable readers will point out that Mac OS X includes PDF creation facilities (there is a printer driver that generates PDF files), but God only knows how much Apple paid Adobe for this privilege. Adobe isn't really a good example here as they have a lucrative traditional software business to subsidize this.

    Quicktime

    The free version of QT also has some restrictions on viewing (can't go full screen, can't escape custom movie interfaces). And, FWIW, it used to be entirely free until Apple realized people would actually pay for this stuff in version 3. It's possible to get around the limits by using old software that isn't aware of the licensing system.

    Real The player and content creator are both free. They charge for the streaming server.



  • PTVJ_EX.zip
    PanoTools.tar.gz
    PTVJ.zip
    PTViewer.tar.gz
    PtFAQ.html
    StBp.JPG
    PanoTools.zip
    examplesWin.zip
    examples.tar.gz

    On my Gnutella and coming soon to a server near you.

    Chris Cothrun
    Curator of Chaos
  • They have to do that, by law, or they lose the rights to whatever copyrights/trademarks/etc.

    You're comparing apples and wintels. Trademarks need to be defended, otherwise they become part of the cultural landscape and can no longer be trademarked. Kleenex and Band-Aid are on the virge of that now, Xerox was on the virge 15 years ago but came back and now everyone calls it "photocopying."

    All this trademark talk is interesting, but irrelevant. This isn't a case of copyright infringement either, unless the professor was dumb enough to copy IPIX's code. This is a case of patent infringement, for which there is no legal obligation to pursue, only financial. If I patent something, I can completely ignore $favorite_OS users who use my patent, but sue each and every $hated_OS user who uses my patent. The trademark law that you are vaugely familiar with isn't an issue.

    Before asking whether "we really want to live in a world without intellectual property," I suggest you learn the different types of IP that are legally defined, as well as the opposing camp's arguements. For the IPIX patent, I suggest that making a 360 degree image is obvious to anyone who works with photos and as such is a Bad Patent(tm).
    --
  • Since the slashdot kiddies apparently find reading a /. blurb AND and entire article too tiring....

    GIMP, by default, distributes a no-GIF-support version of the software. In countries where people can ignore (stupid) US Patents on software, there is a plugin for GIMP that adds GIF support to GIMP. This is how GIMP gets around the Unisys patent


    This space for rent. Call 1-800-STEAK4U

  • What I saw in 1965 was a system of converting a single photograph taken with a fisheye lens in either up or down orientation, and produced a long strip print that gave a view of the surrounding area. You could view it as an outward view and it looked kinda funny, or stick your head in the middle and view it all around and it looked really cool.

    I didn't see the actual mechanism of producing it; I only saw the original fisheye image blown up, and the resultant 360 degree connected strip. But how it was done was quite obvious to me. I saw this at the Columbus (Ohio, USA) Museum of Science and Industry. If it was patented then, it has long since expired.

    I don't know if this is exactly what IPIX is claiming. But if it is, then their patents are bogus for two reasons: prior art, and utterly obvious. If IPIX is basing the life of their company on this technology, then it's a doomed company.

  • For those of you interested you can check out the actual patents at http://www.delphion.com/ [delphion.com]. Quick links to the patents: 5 313 306 [delphion.com] (issued 1994-05-17)& 5 185 667 [delphion.com] (issued 1993-02-09).

    As a side note, it would be of use for the patent articles to include patent references.

  • At least here in Toronto, IPIX grew fast and died fast.
    A couple of good friends of mine worked for them, and all got laid off last month. Sure, this has nothing to do with the patents, but it bears mentioning.
    Pope
  • The iPix patent doesn't apply to software that does what you want -- only to software that takes 2 extremely wide angle (>180) pictures and stitches them to make a 360 panorama. Panorama Tools is being re-released without this feature.
  • Let's make 359 images, nobody will notice and we'll be unaffected by the patent.

    Cute. Or make a 1080 degree image, with red, green and blue in different rotations. Yeh.

  • AFAIK, study and implementation of a patented device is legal, provided one doesn't try to distribute the resulting device. This is because in order to improve upon a patented device, if the device doesn't exist in a distributed form, you, as an inventor or researcher seeking to improve upon the prior art, must be able to build a device upon which to study and improve. That is what a patent is for, anyhow - to give away the details so that someone can build the device from the patent in order to study and improve upon it, furthering the pursuit (and possibly even gaining a patent in the quest)...

    Worldcom [worldcom.com] - Generation Duh!
  • Well, it is pretty obvious that they are in all their right. Otherwise, these lawsuits wouldn't be getting thru (or else, everyone will just start saying that Justice isn't effective).

    Think about it: you pay for the right to have access to thousands of other patented technologies. Why, when it comes to software, do we always want to GPL the world? It doesn't matter that the project was about free software; we're talking about Intelectual Property here. That's why patents exist: to protect indefensive corporations from malevolous open source developers.

    --
  • Panorama Tools is undoubtedly the best toolset for producing panoramic imagery available today.

    It is a sad day when a guy as committed to providing great software to the community as Mr. Dersch gets bullied by the U.S. Patent Office and a litigious company who have obviously failed to come up with anything as functional as Mr. Dersch's Panorama Tools.

    One can only hope the European Patent Office will look a little closer at the many cases of clear prior art with regard to IPIX's patent, and then throwing it in the bin where it belongs.

    Down with IPIX and incompetent patent offices.

  • Fisheye lens-based panoramas are no better than panoramas carefully constructed from a large number of rectilinear images.

    They are, however, faster and easier to produce - 2 images, as opposed to the 12-16 you need to cover a full 360 degrees with a non-fisheye lens.

    Thats really the only benefit - in fact taking lots of pictures will give you a better quality final image, assuming you can orient and align the images perfectly - i use a tripod with calibration marks on it to do mine, with excellent results.

    Panorama Tools lets you use both methods to produce panoramic images, also has a free viewer, runs on several OSes as plugins for the GIMP and Photoshop, and has high-quality output.

  • Are we going post rants every single time someone defends their copyright?

    I don't know, but it does look like every time we have an intellectual property article we're going to have a post by someone who can't distinguish between patents, copyright, and trademarks but wants to defend the poor innocent lawyer-happy corporation anyway.

  • by inicom (81356)
    the l engine found it in a couple places. rotational clue is /banc/fpbQ/ohc/gra.hqrbe.gfrenupho.anzveun//:cggu windows and linux and viewer at that one.
  • Or is there another set of software that does photo-stitching under Linux?

    Just having purchased a new digital camera, I was disappointed to learn that there was a lack of software to do the stitching under un*x. I found links to Panorama Tools (huzzah!) but saw the site was down (no!)

    Well, that'll teach the good professor to write software and not release it anonymously.
  • I thought the whole point of a patent was that you could patent a PARTICULAR METHOD of doing something, say, making 360 degree images. Patents don't cover an entire idea! If you patent a method of creating 360 degree images, and I use a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT method to make a 360 degree image, I haven't violated your patent. Now, if they had a patent on exactly what Prof. Dersch was doing, then, well, yeah, I guess he violated the patent. If not, then what the fuck do they think they're doing?
  • When have you ever seen a system that uses two fisheye lenses procuce a panoramic image. If you have, then send this proof to the prof and get this patent out of the way. Otherwise, QUIT SCREAMING "PRIOR ART"!
  • by fosh (106184)
    Who cares!? Degrees are stupid anyway.

    The linux community should be making 2 pi radian Spin-arounds!

    --Alex Fishman
  • using tricks similar to those needed by GIMP to avoid the Unisys GIF patents.

    What sort of tricks?

    What about freenet? Or putting it on Russian servers? Is linking still illegal or did they change that?

    Peace,
    Amit
    ICQ 77863057
  • Let's make 359 images, nobody will notice and we'll be unaffected by the patent.

    --
  • "They are "picking on" programmers that are violating their patents, and trying to release their secrets that they spent millions of dollars to develop for free use by anyone, including their competitors. Why is this so hard for people to understand?"

    I just find it hard to grasp that it would take "millions of dollars" to spend to get the idea of making a 360 degree image.

  • Never mind that the techniques were invented and freely shared or at least published and not patented for a year before IPIX waltzed in and got a patent.

    Maybe there is nothing wrong with a company trying to outlaw people from continuing to use a freely available technology that the company had nothing to do with, and make it its own.

    Maybe we should get rid of prior art.

    Just allow any company to take any non-patented technology, and claim it as its own, and outlaw the previous users of it from continuing to use it.

    Maybe we can do the equivalent in the real world. Allow any company to take over any public park, and take it over. For $20K.

    IS this the world you want?!?

    I sure don't!

  • Prof Dersch says he may now have to distribute his software using tricks similar to those needed by GIMP to avoid the Unisys GIF patents


    What kind of tricks does GIMP use to avoid Unisys's patents?


    Refrag
  • Actually, the reason Apple switched from DPS to Quartz was precisely to get out of paying Adobe for the privilege of using Adobe code. AFAIK Quartz was a PDF renderer that was developed in house.

    You might want to read the licensing clause in the front of the PDF and PostScript definitions, btw. It's rather interesting -- it reserves trademark rights but essentially allows both definitions to be mostly public domain. Apple IMHO could have done the same thing in implementing their own DPS engine; I presume there was a touch of politics involved, though.

    As for Quicktime... Hmm. I think the thing with Quicktime is that it is, more than even the MacOS or the hardware, *the* crown jewel of Apple's intellectual property. Nobody has created a better version of what Quicktime does and Apple feels the need to keep that going as a potential revenue stream. You may like it, you may not, but that's how it is. (Though I think the real reason they don't open source has a lot more to do with the Sorenson codec than it does anything else...)

    /Brian

  • I have never tried making a pano with a fisheye lens. Isn't that what Panorama Tools is for, and what the IPIX patent is on?

    Why is it so great? I make lots of panos with my nikon 990, but I use normal photos to do them. There must be something better about fisheye panos to make the extra expense worthwhile.
  • by YKnot (181580)
    How many formulas for mapping a picture taken with a fisheye lens to a certain other view? Right, there's exactly one. It's a bijective projection from fisheye-image coordinates into yourview coordinates. The desired view is defined by the application (QTVR tools). The projection is defined by the physical characteristics of the fisheye lense. There isn't a single variable in the mathematics of this transformation. If anything about transforming fisheye images into "normal" images is patentable then it must be in interpolation or coding strategies. The mapping itself is straight forward math.
  • I think the point is that the patents shouldn't have been granted in the first place. The methods IPIX uses were known and available long before the issuance.

    Wired article here. [wired.com]

  • I work for an adult internet business ... With a little work on my hand ...

    You're sure that was work on your hand? ;-)

    After a couple months in development, my team was contacted by IPIX lawyers and forced to stop development.

    I'm curious how the IPIX lawyers found out details of your project while in development. (Or had it been released to the public?) Did your competitors know what you were up to? Was there previous contact with IPIX? Were you putting the word out for outsourcing technology or doing press releases or anything?
  • I was looking at rendering some 360 degree panoramas but it seems the Quicktime VR authoring tools only work on Macs Look at the Apple sample code site [apple.com] they have source code for all kinds of that stuff. Though, the fact that QuickTime isn't available for Linux maay be a problem... One of the great things that Prof Dersch made, was a java applet that played quicktime VR on any system, without QuickTime installed. It was (and is) the only way to view QTVR on linux.
  • You are right - QTVR does let you use any camera. This includes fisheye lenses. The cubic format gives a full 360x180 field of view. This was one of the applications of Helmut's tools. It means that you can remap fisheye images to an equirectangular imagfe suitable for turning into QTVR.
  • AFAIK, it was distributing differnt versions in different countries. Perhaps a better example would be the RSA thingie - if you were in the US you were supposed to download the patent-free version. Helmut is suggesting that he will keep the fisheye functions in a separate library, only to be downloaded by peopel in countries with sane patent laws.
  • Wouldn't this leave a seam in a panoramic view like in qtvr? Not very useful...

    Well, your fingers weave quick minarets; Speak in secret alphabets;
  • Technically, if they patented it, then the method should be fully documented in the patent, which means it is not a secret. This was the whole point of patents, to encourage people to share information while still having it be protected.
  • Remember how QuickTime VR works? You take a bunch of normal stills and knit them together to make the panorama view. IPIX uses two 'fisheye' lens pictures to create the panorama. Two different techniques to get the same effect.
    IMHO, QuickTime VR is a nicer approach, because you can use any camera, but the fisheye approach is quicker.

    "What are we going to do tonight, Bill?"
  • Here's a link to a review page [reviewsonline.com] of seven different commerical panorama software packages. I'd say IPIX has a bunch of busy lawyers.

    "What are we going to do tonight, Bill?"
  • The PTViewer license will be changed and be more open. On Webpages using the applet, no link to my own website is required. Also, I do no longer plan to charge shareware fees for PTMViewer, the extension to display QTVR-files within PTViewer. It is free to use like the rest of PTViewer. These changes take effect immediately, and also apply to previous versions. Yeah, I bet he's now more interested in his software getting the widest possible use, more than in making the odd buck. Basically out of rage, would I say. That's just another example of why the people that still insist on "the Free/Open Software movement having no future because there's no money in it", are just too simplistic.

    Wonderful humans are more complicated than any theory can explain. Money is a good motivator, I reckon. I'm fairly motivated by it myself. But is not the only one, and many times not the most powerful.

    --

  • I wonder if their patent deals only with certain types of lenses or whether it's sufficiently general enough to cover ALL lenses, or spherical reflections, or anything else that could produce a wide field of view. If not, that may be a way around this road apple patent.

    --
  • Read the notice on the site [fh-furtwangen.de]. It's explained there...
  • by crisco (4669) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @03:25PM (#171953) Homepage
    Web link: http://www.lvcm.com/pwp/cothrun/pt/ [lvcm.com] to the PictureTools in question.

    I've taken a brief look at these and they appear to be wonderful very useful tools, aside from the patent stuff in question. I appears that IPIX is acting in an overbroad manner by supressing these.

    Chris Cothrun
    Curator of Chaos

  • by FFFish (7567) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @07:26AM (#171954) Homepage
    I can see isys having a patent on a particular mathematical formula for de-fishlensing an image, but surely there is more than one way to accomplish that task.

    And certainly they can't have a patent on taking fishlense images and making them normal. Because that sort of thing has been going on since Panavision movie-making was developed.

    And they certainly can't have a patent on stitching together images, because people been doing that since forever.

    Really, all they could patent is a particular algorithm for it -- and I'm not sure they could even patent that, 'cause it's just mathematics!

    WTF is up here?

    --
  • by ambient (8381) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @07:28AM (#171955)
    There were rumors that IPIX would be going after QTVR and forcing them to license their *technology*...

    The International Quicktime VR Association also has an anti-IPIX page at: http://www.iqtvra.org/noipix.html [iqtvra.org].
  • by flimflam (21332) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @07:45AM (#171956) Homepage
    We're talking about patents! Patent law does not require them to go after people to protect their rights the way trademark law does.

    And anyway, the patents themselves are extremely dubious -- it's just that no one has the resources to challenge them.

    The reason they're doing this is because they have an untenable business model, and the company is run by morons (and yes I speak from personal experience).

    For the only upside, take a look at their stock price -- it's hovering just above the penny-stock range, down from the mid $40's. It looks like they probably won't be around much longer, thank god.

  • by wiredog (43288) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @07:10AM (#171957) Journal
    EFF & Princeton Scientists Sue Record Companies Over Squelched Research , at EFF [eff.org].

    Since the editors seem to think that the /. crowd wouldn't be interested.

  • by Fjord (99230) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @07:59AM (#171958) Homepage Journal
    This brings up something that I've wondered about patents. Do they really prevent a person from implementing the patent and using it for themselves. I understand if you were making a program to make the imges and then selling/distrubuting that. But if you make the program to make the images, and only you use.have that program, and instead are using/distributing the images, then is that really a violation of patent law? IANAL.
  • by YKnot (181580) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @07:54AM (#171959)

    What I don't understand is how they want to force their patents in Europe

    Check out the "Hague Convention". This is stuff to be afraid of. Signing countries will enforce foreign judgements!
    http://www.cptech.org/ecom/jurisdiction/hague.html [cptech.org]

  • by Ubi_UK (451829) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @07:48AM (#171960)
    That's not the point.
    the IPIX patent will probably not hold in court, because (apparently) other people have developed similar techniques on their own. The point is that they have more money than you. Therefore they will sue you untill you are broke. And then they win.
    The sad thing really is that patent laws were created to protect the little man-with-good-idea against the BigCompany. This has taken 1 180deg spin here (hmmm how ironic)

  • by Phill Hugo (22705) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @08:41AM (#171961) Homepage
    Unlike Trademarks, Patents do not require defence for their validity to remain in tact. This much is obvious from the antics of BT and their belated (and idiotic) hyperlink threats.

    Patents are granted monopolies in exchange for full declaration the invention.

    Those holding patents often realise that there is more money to be made licensing the patent to other companies as this tends to make their technocology wider used and a small peice of a huge pie is better than all of a tiny one. This is why Dolby are so successful, for a fee and a balanced royalty anyone can play with their stuff and thus, many do.

    There is No Legal Reason why any company holding software patents cannot license them to anyone they like for or without a fee and for this precise reason Bruce Perens et al are trying to get IBM and HP to set a 'social precident' for software companies to not sue free software developers for patent infringement.

    IPIX are doing themselves no favours here, if they had the foresight their monotonous press releases suggest ("IPIX, the world leader in..." play another record!), they'd allow free software folk to improve their ideas (they still own the patent underneigth and can make a killing licensing the whole shebang to camera producers).

    If you have more to gain by co-operating, and less to lose by calming the legal dept down, do it! Otherwise you'll just find many of those you most want to embrace IPIX stuff won't touch it with a barge pole. They already seem to prefer the other method of stitching images together to get panoramas.

    Cluetrain [cluetrain.com] anyone?

    GPhoto [gphoto.org] - Free Digital Camera Software

  • by Tymanthius (75808) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @07:48AM (#171962) Homepage
    From a message sent by Helmut Dersch [fh-furtwangen.de] (url http://listserv.fh-furtwangen.de/cgi-bin/lwgate/cg i/lwgate-en-proj.cgi/PROJ-IMIM/archives/proj-imim. archive.0106/Date/article-66.html):

    I do not want to comment on your questions but want to emphasize that no one has yet accused PTViewer of infringing any patents. There are many viewers out there which use similar technology and I am not aware of any ipix patent that could possibly apply.

    [snip]

    Another point: I did not receive the warning from ipix but from a person who is currently being treated by them and their lawyers. I am not authorized to mention details. I hope there is no immediate danger, neither for him nor for us, but it makes sense to be cautious, hence the proposed changes.
  • by cheezus (95036) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @07:10AM (#171963) Homepage
    How is ipix getting away with this? Back in high school I worked for a real estate company and we did 360deg views of rooms inside homes they were trying to sell using software that made QuickTime VR movies (not Apple's, QTVR Authoring Studio was too expensive). About a year after we started doing it, it caught on, and we started getting ads from ipix asking us to buy their $500 software. I had seen qtvr and thought it was cool long before we ever started using it. How can ipix claim that they have the rights to this technology?

    ---

  • by Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @07:39AM (#171964) Homepage
    I don't think they have a leg to stand on even with a granted patent.

    Courts PRESUME any patent which is granted is valid. The plantiff has to prove infringement, but if he does, than the defendant needs to prove the patent is invalid to win. The plaintiff does NOT have to prove anything about the validity, it is considered valid by default because it has been so carefully (hah!) reviewed by the patent office. (i.e. they glance at the title, and make sure it is paid for before rubber stamping it).

    Disclaimer: This is not legal advice.

  • by vergil (153818) <vergilb&gmail,com> on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @08:25AM (#171965) Homepage Journal
    For the record, the first time IPIX threatened Mr. Dersch (in 1999), it was over a specious claim of alleged copyright infringement.

    IPIX has been involved in several tangled intellectual-property disputes. In '97, IPIX went after the Live Picture Corporation for patent infringement, and eventually secured an out-of-court settlement resulting in Live Picture's agreement to stop using fisheye lenses.

    IPIX was also the defendant in a March 2000 patent infringement suit involving alleged willful infringement of U.S. patent 5,903,782 concerning "spherical visual technology".

    If anyone is interested, I threw up a page [cptech.org] a while back that contains more information about IPIX-related intellectual property disputes.

    Sincerely,
    Vergil
    Vergil Bushnell

  • by ambient (8381) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @07:42AM (#171966)

    I dug up a quote of Dan Slaters from http://vr.albury.net.au/~kathyw/EyePics/slater.txt [albury.net.au] that I'm sure you will all find interesting:

    ...IPIX US patents include: 5,313,306, 5,185,667, and at least two others. Some of their claims are quite broad, suggesting that any geometric remapping of a fisheye image is their invention. There is considerable prior art that would seem to invalidate these broad IPIX claims. Variations of fisheye image geometric remapping type systems have been used in aerospace, aerial photography, submarine periscopes, flight simulation, planetarium projection, etc. As an example, one system from the early 1970,s used a 6 mm Nikon fisheye lens in a F-111 aircraft to view wing extension simultaneously on both sides of the aircraft while also providing star image data. Two particularly relevant prior art references that would appear to completely invalidate the broad IPIX patent claims include:

    Ripley, D., DVI - A Digital Multimedia Technology, Communications of the ACM, Volume 32 Number 7 (July 1989)

    This paper describes an interactive computer based system that dynamically extracts perspective corrected views from images filmed with a Nikon 220 fisheye lens.

    Lippman, A., Movie Maps: An Application of the Optical Video Disc to Computer Graphics, Siggraph Conference Proceedings (1980)

    This second paper describes an early VR system that used either a set of 4 cameras or a single donut image camera that captured the complete road system in a small town. The viewer could travel down any of the roads in several different seasons and see perspective corrected views. The single camera system could use either the Nikon 6 mm f2.8 fisheye lens or the Kern Peri Apollar lens to record a full 360 degree horizontal view.

    Ripley (the author of the 1st paper) is a principle of Infinite Pictures that was sued by IPIX for patent infringment and lost with a million dollar judgement against him. To this day, I don't understand why, as both of these papers clearly describe prior art of undistorting fisheye images to extract "perspective corrected" views, etc.
  • by ambient (8381) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @07:19AM (#171967)
    I find IPIX's actions to be far more infuriating and monopolostic than anything that Micro$oft has ever done... These people are basically saying that the only way you are going to use 360 images on the web is if you use their software and pay their fees.

    Prior-Art exists for the patents that they are trying to enforce... someone should step in (EFF? O'Reilly?) and challenge these patents.

    For now, we can make an impact on IPIX... boycott them!
    Also, check out http://vr.albury.net.au/~kathyw/EyePics/ [albury.net.au] or http://www.virtualproperties.com/noipix/noipix.htm l [virtualproperties.com] for more of IPIX's heavy-handed tactics.

    Sorry I'm not more coherent, but this really pisses me off.
  • by jms (11418) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @08:44AM (#171968)
    The sad thing really is that patent laws were created to protect the little man-with-good-idea against the BigCompany.

    This is a persistant myth.

    The patent laws were created for one purpose -- to promote progress by encouraging the disclosure of inventions. Patent laws are not, and never were intended to "protect the little guy."

  • by icqqm (132707) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @07:20AM (#171969) Homepage Journal
    Will they have to take their Pathfinder images [nasa.gov] down too?
  • by onion2k (203094) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @07:18AM (#171970) Homepage
    GIMP simply has no GIF support by default. Theres a plugin for gif support, this is only available from servers located in countries where Unisys don't hold an active patent on the LZW algorithm. So they can't stop the file being served. And people download it.

    The tinkers..

  • by Bonker (243350) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @07:13AM (#171971)
    Call IPIX or drop them an email and ask them why they are picking on OSS developers:

    Stu Roberson
    iPIX
    3160 Crow Canyon Road, 4th floor
    San Ramon, CA 94583
    ph: (925) 242.4050
    Email: stu.roberson@ipix.com

    Missy Acosta
    Ackermann Public Relations
    1111 Northshore Drive, Suite N-400
    Knoxville, TN 37917-4046
    Phone: (865) 584.0550
    Fax:(865) 588.3009
    Email: macosta@ackermannpr.com

    Cathy Hay
    Morgen-Walke
    380 Lexington Ave
    New York, NY
    Phone: (212) 850-5679
    Email: chay@morgenwalke.com

  • I work for an adult internet business that shall remain nameless...A little over a year ago we were working to differentiate ourselves from other adult site's offerings. With a little work on my hand, we developed 3d panoramic software to explore the mystical regions on the beautiful nude form (our site is upscale and we cater to both men and women, so it took some work to optimize viewing for the various body types). After a couple months in development, my team was contacted by IPIX lawyers and forced to stop development. They offered us the option of licensing technology through them, but the cost benefit just wasn't there.

    It's a shame to see creativity online stifled by overly restrictive business practices by those online. Our company has been forced to use more traditional offerings for our site- mediocrity is now being prescribed by unnecessary and unjust patents enforced by the legal systems of the world.

    iluvpr0n. (really)
  • by MarkusQ (450076) on Wednesday June 06, 2001 @08:00AM (#171973) Journal
    This is just nuts. The math they use has been around since the 1700s. Artists have been using the process (cf Escher) for ages. I went head to head with them a few years back, pointed out these facts on behalf of a client (IANAL, I am a Programer with an Attitude) and they backed down. Didn't admit that we'd called their bluff, but dropped it cold.

    They are bluffing. This is known art, and they know it. Call them on it.

    -- MarkusQ

    P.S. Still annoyed by their audacity, if you can't tell.

"The vast majority of successful major crimes against property are perpetrated by individuals abusing positions of trust." -- Lawrence Dalzell

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