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Suddenly a JPEG Patent and Licensing Fee 1223

Michael Long writes "Forgent Networks ( has announced that it owns the software patent on JPEG compression technology, and has stated that it is "in contact" with computer, software, camera, and other digital imaging product manufacturers regarding licensing terms. This ambush of the digitial imaging industry will probably stand as the worst public relations nightmare a company can inflict upon itself."
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Suddenly a JPEG Patent and Licensing Fee

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  • by kentrel ( 526003 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:11PM (#3909559) Journal
    Realplayer and their constant updating of their file formats, Quicktime and the same, Microsoft and their media formats. When are we going to see proper programs and file formats that remain backwardly compatible, and free to use. It's insane. The internet grew so fast because of sharing of technology. This kind of crap will only stifle it.
  • The GIF fiasco led to the superior PNG format, will this promote the use of wavelet compression? Assuming a patent-free algorithm exists ... I know there's a bunch of patents on wavelets ...

  • by Froze ( 398171 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:15PM (#3909622)
    Maybe this type patent nonsense will finally get more companies to see that open standards are in fact a safer way to build their products.
  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:16PM (#3909624) Homepage Journal
    And this is why RAND is unacceptable in any public standard. Any body making public standards should require all participants to provide a license to anybody using that patent for the purpose of implementing that standard free of charge to all.

    Given how patent-encumbered JPEG-2000, MPEG-4 et. al. are, this will seriously interfere with open implementation of these standards.

    Would that that would slow their adoption....
  • Worst PR disaster? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:19PM (#3909654)
    This ambush of the digitial imaging industry will probably stand as the worst public relations nightmare a company can inflict upon itself.

    Doesn't really matter. Arguably corporations have more rights than humans these days.

    Consider that Microsoft hasn't been punished yet for its monopolistic practices and in the interim is pushing through some pretty Orwellian products.

    Consider that earlier on the front page the Baby Bells were given the go-ahead to sell information about its customers' phoning habits.

    Consider that depending upon which company you work for that's cooked the books, the government will pay more or less attention to it depending upon the company's political donations.

    Consider that the Bush administration is flooded (Bush, Cheney, the SEC and Thomas White) with people in conflicts of interest, and nobody is going to do anything about it.

    (Feel free to reply with your own additions to this list...)

    In other words, the time might never have been riper to try something like this.
  • by FatRatBastard ( 7583 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:21PM (#3909691) Homepage
    *snort* what is the sound of millions of people flipping these guys off? Most people ignore the GIF compression threats - now we're supposed to fear for JPG suits?

    Nope, they don't care about home user. They DO care about the very large companies that use JPEG compression in thier products, simply because if the patent holds up (I have no idea how valid or invalid it appears to be) those same very large companies will be in hock to the tune of a lot of $$$ to the patent holders.
  • Expiration (Score:3, Insightful)

    by namespan ( 225296 ) <namespan@elite m a i> on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:26PM (#3909751) Journal
    If the patent has existed since 1986, doesn't it expire at the end of 2003?

  • Re:Now PNG (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:27PM (#3909759) Homepage Journal
    That's fine if you have a lot of storage space (e.g. your porn collection on hard disk), but on things like digital cameras and their comparatively small flash storage, this is bad news.

    Switching from GIF to PNG was easy, because except for animation, PNG could do everything GIF could do, but better.

    Switching from JPEG/JFIF to PNG is harder, because PNG doesn't have lossy compression (yet?). When you convert your JPEGs to PNGs, the file sizes are going to increase significantly.

  • Re:I wonder... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:29PM (#3909790)
    It would stand a better chance of being Mod'ed up if it was accurate, but the actuality is that the .gif royalties are charged to developers, not users of the end product, and they're paid to Unisys, not CompuServe. I worked at CompuServe during the whole GIF fiasco and it was CompuServe that developed the PNG format in response to Unisys's heavy handed ambush and released it without IP constraints.
  • Re:Pantent? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:35PM (#3909853)
    What a clueless Enron post. It bugs me when people throw around the name 'Enron' and expect everybody to gasp at how evil it is.

    However crappy their business plan was, it was not criminal. Ken Lay et al may have stretched their ethics in their pursuit for the almighty dollar, but the only criminal behavior was by the accounting firm Arthur Anderson.

    "But employees lost their retirement savings when the stock crashed"- well thats what they get for ignoring all sensible investing advice and risking so much on the success of a single company. Don't cry foul because you suck at investing.
  • Does anyone know ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Asprin ( 545477 ) <<gsarnold> <at> <>> on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:37PM (#3909874) Homepage Journal
    Not trying to be facetious or anything, but a serious question:

    Does anyone out there in /. land know what you have to do to *change* the terms and pricing of patent licenses? For example, what kinds of papers have to be filed, who has to be notified and how much notice must be given, etc.

    I seem to recall reading somewhere that patents have to be defended (vigorously?) to be upheld and anyone who let their IP languish for ten years in full public view while it becomes a standard hasn't defended anything, rendering their patent claim invalid.

  • Re:Pantent? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:39PM (#3909895)
    > The patent has existed since 86.
    This is pissing me off. When the debate was about *.gif's, everyone said "Use *.jpg instead". And now I have to find out there's been a claim to it since 86?!
    I am so incredibly tired of patents, "intellectual property" and related nonsense, I can't put it into adequate words. All I want is a system that is guaranteed unencumbered by this crap. Open-source and open-standard with nobody coming out of the fricking woodwork screaming like a 4-year old "It's mine!! You can't have it!!".
    We need a clearing house, where issues like this get addressed: free and open formats are A, B, C. Anything else stay away from. How else can one make an informed decision?
  • Owning math? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:42PM (#3909924)
    How can anbody own a compression algorithm. Its like saying that you own the quadratic equation. You can not own mathematical formulas or arguments and algorithms are just that. You can discover them, but you cant own them. Only a society obsessed with the all mighty dollar would even allow such nonsense to stand.
  • by cmburns69 ( 169686 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:45PM (#3909958) Homepage Journal
    The GIF fiasco did lead people to create (and even support PNG), but honestly, GIF is still used way more, just because ALL the graphics designers out there know about it, and everything supports its creation and display.

    I believe the same thing will happen with this JPEG patent. JPEG2K will become a fully functional spec, but the original JPEG will still rule (except in things like the GTK)

    Free online gaming []
    "See my vest, made from real gorrilla chest!"
  • by Gumber ( 17306 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:45PM (#3909959) Homepage
    Patent terms are 20 years from filing date. They filed this in October 86, which gives them about 2.5 years.

    I imagine they can sue for back royalties. Anyone know if that right expires along with the patent?
  • Re:JPEG 2000? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MisterBlister ( 539957 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:45PM (#3909964) Homepage
    But this doesn't surprise me. After MS claimed ownership of parts of OpenGL, that sorta opened the floodgates for really sad attempts to bilk more money out of an already financialy strapped populace/industry.

    You are a sad, sad, person. Microsoft only claimed that they have patents in the area relating to fragment shaders, which in fact they do. They didn't make any threats as far as lawsuits, or in any way try to block to OpenGL ARB from moving forward. What should they have done, said nothing and then brought the issue up 3 years later? Isn't that why we all hate RAMBUS? Microsoft does a lot of questionable things, but you do the Linux/OSS crowd a huge disservice by knocking everything they do without even understanding what is going on. I guess you can't be blamed completely, you're just a Slashdot-sheep parroting what CmdrTaco told you to think...

  • Re:Pantent? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frater 219 ( 1455 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:48PM (#3909987) Journal
    This is America. Hot coffee, anyone? Reparations for the ancestors of the slaves?

    Misleading examples, anyone?

    The judgement in the "coffee case", Liebeck v. McDonald's [], followed after over 700 other cases between 1982 and 1992 in which a McDonald's customer was burned by overheated coffee. Coffee is usually served around 140 degrees Fahrenheit; McDonald's was serving it at over 180. A liquid at 180 degrees F. will cause third-degree burns to human skin in between two and seven seconds. (A "third-degree burn" does not refer to the skin being burned away, but to the full thickness of the skin being burnt.) Coffee at 180 degrees is not fit for consumption, as it will severely burn the mouth and throat.

    Stella Liebeck did not set out to mooch millions of dollars from McDonald's. She initially wanted a settlement of $20,000 to cover her medical costs -- which included eight days in the hospital and skin-grafting operations. A jury awarded her the $2.7 million dollars in punitive damages -- to punish McDonald's for knowingly continuing to put its customers in harm's way. The judge reduced punitive damages to $480,000 despite calling the company "reckless, callous, and willful" in its deliberate risking of customers' well-being in order to save costs.

    See the link above for details. If you want to say that our society is too litigious, go ahead -- it is -- but please do not Ms. Liebeck for that. She was the victim of another of our society's problems -- corporations who believe it will be cheaper to pay off (or toss aside) victims of their recklessness rather than do the right thing in the first place.

  • Re:Pantent? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Edward Teach ( 11577 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:51PM (#3910024)
    Actually, there is precedent for overturning the patent. If I let you walk accross my back yard and do not stop you, you assume from my behavior that it is ok with me. Assume that I have let you walk accross my back yard for the past 15 years and there is a well worn path now. Hundreds of people use that path every day and finally I get tired of being a nice guy. Too bad, I have let the situation go to long and there is an easement under the law there. It is called a trodden path and is the same as a sidewalk.
    If I don't want you walking in my back yard, I have to stop you within a reasonable amount of time and cannot wait until the path becomes a well worn and commonly accepted walkway.
    At least that is what my business law instructor pounded into my head.
    It seems like the same principle will kill this patent. They did not act within a reasonable time to mitigate the damages done to other companies who used the patent.
  • Public Domain (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fascist Christ ( 586624 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:52PM (#3910031)

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see how you can patent something already in the public domain.

    And with how long JPEG has been around, you would think they would have raised the point earlier of the unliscensed distribution of their technology. That is, of course, unless the whole point was wait until everybody uses it and then enforce the patent.

    If you want to enforce a patent, you need to enforce it from the beginning. Also, anything that is a standard needs to be released to the public domain.

    This is obviously a scam. It would be interesting to see how it plays out.

  • Re:Patently Absurd (Score:3, Insightful)

    by apg ( 66778 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:55PM (#3910059) Homepage

    Maybe something of this magnitude can force everyone to reexamine the current patent situation.

    Like figuring out why there isn't some sort of "window of opportunity" for enforcing patents or else they become public domain? For the sake of argument let's assume that this patent is valid. Clearly, these guys were aware that other companies and individuals were infringing on their patented material, and yet they did nothing until the market was so saturated with tools and equipment using JPEG technology that they thought they thought they could make good money charging license fees. They can't possibly say they weren't aware of all the people out there using JPEGs.

  • "Compression Labs" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Watts Martin ( 3616 ) <> on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:58PM (#3910094) Homepage

    The referred-to patent is owned by "Compression Labs," which is referred to as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Forgent. Evidently they are (or perhaps were) a San Jose-based company which did indeed do video compression technology; through Google I found a press release from them in 1991 announcing video phone products with AT&T and again in 1993 from AT&T's Paradyne unit. Back then their technology was called "CDV" (compressed digital video) and was, interestingly, described as "based on the MPEG standard." A web page at Cisco referrs to a Compression Labs standard as "proprietary" and distinct from JPEG.

    It's worth noting that in their last reported quarter, Forgent made $15M from a "licensing program based on its still-image compression technology." This is coming to light now, I suspect, because two companies have already caved in and paid for use of the technology, the announced one being Sony [], and this gives Forgent legitimacy to bully others with this stick.

    As for mass revolt against the JPEG format, the GIF controversy came to light in 1994. Eight years later and it's still the most widely-used graphics format that provides consistently-supported (if mediocre) implementations for transparency and simple animation. The majority of web browsers in the wild still don't support PNG correctly (and virtually nothing supports MNG).

  • No, but you should have to check prior patents if you ever develop anything with any industrial utility and you plan to market it. Spending money on development and marketing, and exposing yourself to liability, without determining your exposure up front is foolhardy. It's called due diligence. It's your burden, and it's a good idea.
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:05PM (#3910172) Journal
    If these people have a patent on DCT and huffman coding (which isn't likely to be valid if tested in court, but that's another matter), let's all just adopt JPEG 2000 as soon as possible. Wavelet coding is superior, anyway.

  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:05PM (#3910177) Homepage Journal
    IANAL, but...

    This whole thing seems familiar, not just with GIF but with Rambus and the SDRAM/DDR standards.

    At the time, one of the writings mentioned a thing called "Equitable Estoppel." My interpretation was that if you had a patent that was becoming an industry standard, you had to begin notification "promptly," and to allow it to become a standard and *then* begin notifying/litigating was legally naughty.

    Rambus is still around, though a shadow of their former arrogance. (I understand that the people are still just as arrogant as ever, they just don't get the press.) In some ways, notably submarining and patent-stretching Rambus was worse. But at least once they had stretched their original art to look like it covered SDRAM and got it issued, they were prompt in filing suit.

    It looks like this company deserves no less.
  • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GryMor ( 88799 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:11PM (#3910250)
    You are missing the fact that the patent predates the standerd, and that C-Cube Microsystems independently created an algorithm that aparently infringes on the patent.

    The final bit of this agrevating concoction is that Forgent recently aquired the previouse owners of the patent.

    So, to sum up: JPEG isn't prior art for this patent, the patent significantly predates the JPEG standerd. The patent was applied for in 1986 and issued in 1987. The patent is probably valid. JPEG probably does infringe on it. Patents do not need to be defended to remain valid (though you may not be able to pick up damages for the entire infringing period if you weren't defending the patent)
  • Coffee (Score:1, Insightful)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:13PM (#3910266) Journal
    It's not a misleading example at all. When you order a hot drink like Coffee or Tea, you should be prepared to cope with it being any temperature up to 212 degrees farenheit. Tea should be made with boiling water, not boiled water.

    Hell, I was able to deal with hot drinks by the time I was five years old, and I have absolutely no sympathy for Liebeck.

    If I were on her jury, I'd have looked right at her and said "coffee's SUPPOSED to be hot, lady. Go cope."

  • Words to live by: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SnapShot ( 171582 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:26PM (#3910401)
    If the answer is "more lawyers" then the question shouldn't have been asked.

    Seriously, though.

    Your contention is that SONY, Apple, Microsoft, Nikon, Canon, HP, IBM, AOL, Xerox, and every other company that engages in the fields that "include digital cameras, digital still image devices, personal digital assistants (PDA's), cellular telephones that download images, browsers, digital camcorders with a still image function, scanners and other devices used to compress, store, manipulate, print or transmit digital images" either failed to hire a Search Firm or did hire a Search Firm and then willfully ignored this patent?

    Of course not. The file format was released as an open standard and Forgent is now attempting to cash in on a vaguely related patent.
  • by diabolus_in_america ( 159981 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:28PM (#3910428) Journal
    Sure, HP and Kodak can switch the files formats of their digital cameras to something other than JPEG. As well, Adobe and Macromedia can even eliminate JPEG support from their product lines. They could then avoid paying patent royalties on all future sales of those products.

    But, that will not save them from having to deal with all of the revenue generated by previous versions of those products over the years. That could potentially be a boatload of cash that these companies will have to fork over because of Forgent's decision to enforce their patent.

    Two things could stand in the way of Forgent and the truckloads of cash they are dreaming of:

    The gap between the time the patent was granted and the time of enforcement. We are talking about over a decade of time that Forgent, for all practical purposes, chose not to enforce their patent on JPEG encoding. There is a concept of tacit approval that companies such as Adobe could call into play when this goes to court. And since Forgent has stated on their web site that a "national law firm" is involved, you can bet this will go to court... soon.

    Extending the concept of tacit approval, the defendants could claim they would not have used the patented technology in their products if they had known the patent would be enforced. The fact that it was not enforced, during a reasonable period of time after the patent was granted, makes this argument a solid one.

    Forgent better hope that the national law firm they hired can claim a plausible reason why it took them so long to enforce this patent. If not, then it will likely be thrown out for all products using the JPEG format up until the date that Forgent decided to enforce it. If that happens, then the flow of money from this will be reduced to a trickle of what it could have been.

  • Re:Pantent? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by joshsisk ( 161347 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:32PM (#3910460)
    The analogy is deeply flawed.

    Both the former slave owners AND the former slaves are long dead. 100% of the citizens of the US were born after the slaves were freed. A fair portion of descendents of current US citizens had not even immigrated to the US when the slaves were freed.

    How is it justifiable to make these people pay reparations (which they would be, since it's _their_ tax money as well)?
  • by steve_l ( 109732 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:41PM (#3910557) Homepage
    um, when apple suddenly demanded $1 per port they pretty much kick started USB2.0 and serial ATA and pretty much killed the notion of using 1394 as the HDD interconnect inside a PC. I was working in the PC biz at the time, I remember these things. I also remember the belief that this was a Steve jobs deal to hurt PCs compared to macs. well, he hurt us users.
  • Re:Pantent? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by VivianC ( 206472 ) <internet_update@ ... inus threevowels> on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:46PM (#3910593) Homepage Journal
    If your great grandparents were forced to do slave labor you would be pissed too. Slavery in the US ended only 140 years ago, black social reform only happened 40 years ago.

    Hey! Where's mine? I'm pissed at how my Grandparents of Italian and German descent were treated during WWI and WWII. My family even had to change it's name to sound more American. Where's mine?

    No one's great grandparents were slaves in America. Using commonly accepted theory of 20 years per generation (and it is a fact that it is less than that currently in the African-American community), you would need to add five more Greats.

    And Black social reform may only be 40 years old, but White social reform started 225+ years ago with WHITE protests against slavery. I don't know if you've looked up your history, but the Civil War was started and fought mainly by whites. The Underground railroad was run mainly by whites. Even worse, the majority of anti slavery groups were led by Christians. There's a fact you can't teach in schools anymore.

    So don't lump me in with those racist bastards just because of my skin color and your poor foundation in historical knowledge.
  • Re:I'm outraged! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WalkingBear ( 555474 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:57PM (#3910725) Homepage Journal
    This kind of caselaw already exists in respect to Trade mark and service mark litigation. If you do not defend your trade mark, you lose it. I am not sure I would like to see this implemented in the area of patents. A patent is something even a single guy in his basement can file on his invention. If he is forced to defend it everytime it's infringed in order to keep it, then it becomes much more of a burden than it needs to be. Myself and the company I work for are in the process of applying for multiple patents. It has been an educational few weeks. There are huge holes in the patent system in the US and they are being exploited. There isn't much that can be done about it at present. The changes will have to come through the case law of patent litigation or through the glacial slowness of the lawmaking system. Walking Bear
  • Yes. The goal of due diligence is to avoid exposure to litigation. I'm not saying that all patents are valid, or that all infringement suits have merit. I'm saying that it's foolish business practice to put yourself in harm's way without assessing the likelihood of litigation ahead of time. Steps taken early on save money later. I'm not playing devil's advocate (and I'm not trolling, although I've been modded down in this thread, supposedly for doing so). I'm not saying that the patent is valid, or that BT, Amazon, etc. are in the right in previous frivolous lawsuits. I'm merely saying that anyone in business today has to know what the environment is, and has to proceed cautiously. They can't claim that they were caught unaware of the potential liability of moving forward blindly, particularly when the tools to assess their risk are so easily and cheaply available to everyone.

  • by trix_e ( 202696 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @03:04PM (#3910798)
    it's times like this I wish moderation scores didn't have an upper limit of 5.
  • by SnapShot ( 171582 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @03:30PM (#3911061)
    Why do so many people hate lawyers?

    They hate what they fear.

    Why do so many people fear lawyers?

    They fear years of research and work being stolen from them because they are unable to work the system the way Forgent or Microsoft or BT or Amazon can. They fear some white trash bimbo is going to pour coffee on herself at your family restaraunt and suddenly your livlihood is gone. Or, perhaps, some redneck is going to slip walking up the steps to your house and steal your home from you. They fear being screwed by the people who are supposed to advise them in the intricacies of law.

    They fear being rendered helpless in a system that ONLY rewards those with money and those with the most expensive lawyers.

    You claim that everyone should assess their risk (using the tools that are, supposedly, "easily and cheaply available to everyone") and it's foolish "to put yourself in harm's way without accessing the likelihood of litigation".

    I think the perception of most of the citizens of the USA is this: you are at risk for being sued at any moment of any day for doing any action at any time for the rest of your natural life and extending many years into the lives of your descendants. And, whether or not you take advantage of these "cheap" tools, someone can hire more expensive tools to rob you of your work, your business, and your home and there is nothing you can do about it.

    Anyway, I'm sorry you lost Karma. I guess some of the moderators can't separate their feelings about the failings of the system from the postings of those that think it is worthy of being defended.
  • by MouseR ( 3264 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @03:33PM (#3911083) Homepage
    Now, if you're on any kind of broadband connection, that point becomes pretty moot since the difference between downloading a 10k jpeg and a 100k PNG is less than a second.

    Gee, it shows you're not running a server.

    Saving 90% bandwidth is a god-given when you do.
  • by Alceste ( 138400 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @04:07PM (#3911340)
    I don't know if one of the 750 posts prior to this hit on this point, so here goes.

    The trick with patents is that they need to be actively enforced by the patent holder (not the police). Therefore, it is up to the patent holder to watch over the market and make sure no one is stealing the IP.

    Now, like laws, patents cannot be selectively protected and prosecuted, so I cannot sue one company for using my patent without a license and not another... from what I understand is that if you want to allow a company to use your tech for free, you have to explicitly say so. If you don't, you're passive acceptance of it's use may imply a negligence to police your own patent, and it makes lawsuits around your patent that much harder.

    Now, consider that this tech has been used passively by literally millions of people for years. I'm guessing that even if this patent is legit. they've essentially given up their right to enforce the patent.

    The law is supposed to work this way for the very purpose of preventing ambushes. I can only hope that it works out this way.

  • by Alceste ( 138400 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @04:43PM (#3911590)

    1) I did read the previous comments.
    2) That is the law... it's not "black and white," but waiting 5 years to collect on a patent when it is clearly being used would probably be noted as neglect of the patent
    3) Ibid
    4) And I indeed read the article

    Patents do require active protection as well. Until the software age it was almost a non-issue because the most value patents were around manufacturing processes which could only be used by other big companies... in short you just can't build a widget plant and distribute the widgets overnight. We all know the deal with software and how this changes.

    And sir, I thank you and your comic-book-store-guy reply for further demonstrating the slashdot stereotype.
  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @05:03PM (#3911800) Homepage
    The claims made by Ogg Vorbis (i.e. it is patent free) are extremely unlikely to be true.

    Well, they have done what they can to make it more likely. Specifically, they have a staff of lawyers scrutinizing everything they do, specifically to make sure they don't run afoul of any patents. They would have been done by now if it weren't for the care they are taking about patents.

    It's ironic: patents are supposed to spur innovation onward, but at the moment patents are a huge drag on the development of new software. If you want to make sure you don't get bitten by any patents, you need to go to a great deal of effort.

  • by ArsSineArtificio ( 150115 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @07:28PM (#3912936) Homepage
    They fear years of research and work being stolen from them because they are unable to work the system the way Forgent or Microsoft or BT or Amazon can. They fear some white trash bimbo is going to pour coffee on herself at your family restaraunt and suddenly your livlihood is gone. Or, perhaps, some redneck is going to slip walking up the steps to your house and steal your home from you. They fear being screwed by the people who are supposed to advise them in the intricacies of law.
    They fear being rendered helpless in a system that ONLY rewards those with money and those with the most expensive lawyers.


    Look at what you wrote. Setting aside your cheap ethnic bigotry that only "rednecks" sue anyone, do you really think that "white trash bimbos" and "rednecks" qualify as "those with money" and "those with the most expensive lawyers"?

    This is how it works. Slashdotters, take notice.

    If you Slip and Fall, or Pour Hot Coffee on yourself, you have what is called a tort claim (we will ignore whether or not these claims have merit). A tort is a legally recognized injury. You can sue for the tort of wrongful death, or the tort of fraud, or the tort of negligence. Your state's law governs what the legal requirements are for a court to find that "fraud" or "negligence" existed. What you are suing for is a) monetary damages, i.e. your hospital bills b) punitive damages, i.e. a monetary punishment to make the wrongdoer think twice about ever doing it again, and/or c) attorney's fees.

    But most people, especially those who have fallen and can't get up, don't have enough money to hire an attorney by the hour. What is usually arranged is what's called a "contingent fee contract". Basically, the lawyer gets 1/3 of whatever is recovered. (That is why you see those "you don't pay if you don't win" television commercials for lawyers.)

    What does this encourage? Dishonest PLAINTIFFS, not dishonest lawyers. Since filing a lawsuit becomes risk-free as long as you can pretend you have been grievously injured, it's worth trying your luck even if you have done something monstrously stupid and injured yourself. And idiot JURIES can be called upon to give ridiculous damage awards.

    The system does NOT favor the rich in tort litigation. Sorry. All juries see is a bank account from which to give out a massive judgment. All attorneys see is that an endless assortment of greedy idiots will show up at their doors demanding massive rewards for self-inflicted stupidity. All lawyers do is facilitate the wishes of greedy plaintiffs.

    Who is helpless? You were right, it's business owners (and anybody whom a jury might think could distribute big bucks to someone who tried drinking Drano to see what would happen). Do you notice the inconsistency in thinking that The Rich set up a system which screws themselves over?

    What really happened is that populist legislatures, and populist judges, trying to DIMINISH the power of "The Man" and INCREASE the power of the "People", created our present system. Tort lawsuits exist, and were in modern times generally created, to favor the little man. The problem is that the balance swung too far. "Suit to recover because your employer has insanely dangerous machinery" became "suit to recover because your boss harmed your self-esteem".

    What does this have to do with patent law? Absolutely nothing. This question of whether a company's patent on JPEGs is enforceable has absolutely nothing to do with frivolous lawsuits like the kinds you described. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the honesty of the legal profession.

  • by Ogerman ( 136333 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @07:34PM (#3912983)
    Perhaps the best way to fight this stupidity is to entirely ignore software patents. Let them fuss and fume and try to take everyone to court as they scrounge around trying to get money for nothing. Once enough folks get peeved, maybe there'll finally be enough uproar to force an overhaul of our entirely broken patent system. Take it to the supreme court if need be to establish that algorithms are both protected speech and natural discoveries (ie. mathematics, therefore not patentable). Heck, this could even help css-cracking cases if that happened.
  • by jelle ( 14827 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @10:24PM (#3914003) Homepage
    I'm not rusty on the JPEG algorithm.

    I read through the legalese wording of the first 40 claims and even though it describes an algorithm that uses run lengh coding and huffman-like coding (more generic), the algorithm that is described in this patent [] is not part of Baseline JPEG as standardized in ITU-T T.81 [], ISO 10918-1 [], and MIL-STD-188-198A []

    Sony never should have paid. I guess that's what happens if you let lawyers run the world and bluff their way around court rooms. IANAL and I feel sorry for those who are.

    I'd sell my Forgent stocks asap.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN