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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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  • I'm outraged! (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:08PM (#3909510)
    How can a company come in at this late date and declare a patent on jpeg? Isn't there prior art?
  • Pantent? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by krypto246 ( 567378 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:10PM (#3909530)
    They can't, of course. Nobody judge would let this ruling stand. It's probably jsut a way for the company to exhort money from those it's suing.
  • JPEG 2000? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thedbp ( 443047 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:11PM (#3909554)
    How about JPEG 2000? Are they claiming any rights to this compression scheme? Because to be honest, JPEG 2000 is FAR superior, and it wouldn't take too much effort for companies to say "screw your royalty, we're producing JPEG 2000 cameras, etc. from now on."

    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.
  • by Mr_Matt ( 225037 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:13PM (#3909585)
    *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? What about all the scanners out there whose default settings are to create JPG images? How about the thousands upon thousands of on-line amateur photographers whose thumbnails are in JPG format?

    Let's face it: it was tough to change people's minds to use PNG instead of GIF. Do they really think they're going to make headway suing people for using JPG images? From the article:

    "We wanted to ensure the investment community and the general public are clear about the terms of our valuable JPEG data compression technology, one of the many technologies we have in our patent portfolio," stated Richard Snyder, chairman and chief executive officer at Forgent. "We are in ongoing discussions with other manufacturers of digital still cameras, printers, scanners and other products that use JPEG technology for licensing opportunities."

    Like I said, best of luck. I'd love to see this guy get his ass handed to him by the very large companies who use JPG compression.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:15PM (#3909621)
    The best known standard from JPEG is IS 10918-1 (ITU-T T.81), which is the first of a multi-part set of standards for still image compression. A basic version of the many features of this standard, in association with a file format placed into the public domain by C-Cube Microsystems (JFIF) is what most people think of as JPEG!

    For everything else, there's Folgers Crystal Meth
  • by cqnn ( 137172 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:16PM (#3909634)
    Now that JPEG 2000 has finally been standardized, and more companies are starting
    to adopt it as a better JPEG both for compression and image quality;
    can't the industry just tell Forgent to stick their patent where the
    pixels don't shine?

    Yes, I know there would still be a transition period to convert all that Pr0n over.
  • Re:Pantent? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Maeryk ( 87865 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:18PM (#3909648) Journal
    Try reading the link thats posted. The patent has existed since 86. I dont think theres going to be much of a challenge to it at this point. Of course, the argument could probably be made that they never tried to liscence the technology before, and that they are doing something shady and underhanded by waiting until it is in use by millions upon millions of devices and *then* try to patent it.. but I dont know how that would work out.

  • Wha? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by idfrsr ( 560314 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:18PM (#3909649)
    If you don't collect licensces for your patent immediately, (i.e. within a reasonbale time frame) why do you get to do it years later (after everyone started using because it was free and efficient)?

    Shouldn't your patent expire if you don't do anything to collect on it?

    My new investment strategy is going to be patents. It certainly seems to be the only thing worth any money besides real estate. Surely there are patents sitting around that you can invest by buying them...
  • Re:I'm outraged! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:20PM (#3909681) Homepage Journal
    How can a company come in at this late date and declare a patent on jpeg? Isn't there prior art?

    Yep - I am starting to feel that there needs to be some sort of regulation that if a patent has been in *widespread* public use after two years and the patent owner has not announced publically that they own a patent covering such technology, then they should be probhibted from suing implementers of the patent. 'Widespread' is is emphasized as the company or individuals should be able to protect their patent if it can be argued that there was a possibility that they didn't realise that anyone was infringing until date x.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:20PM (#3909685)
    note: Ogg tarkin is going to use wavelet compression. So yes a patent free algorithm exists.
  • I say it again (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Restil ( 31903 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:21PM (#3909692) Homepage
    Why does patent law allow this? JPEG has been around for YEARS! This is not something that somebody started using yesterday. This company sat on its hands while it waited for the format to become so entrenched and standardized that the rest of the world would have no choice but to accept some form of licensing agreement.

    I say, if you have a patent on something, you have a limited amount of time to claim infringement after the infringement is discovered. This way, the overall damage is minimized and other formats can be adoped or created if necessary. If this company honestly didn't know it had a patent on JPEG, it probably was a waste of money to begin with.

    Its one thing to allow the most obvious ideas to be patented, but its quite another to allow someone to take advantage of a patent to fleece entire industries. That's borderline fraud.

  • by turgid ( 580780 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:23PM (#3909712) Journal
    But what have they actually patented? The JPEG file format? The DCT and huffmann compression algorithms? Are these only applied to images, or other data too, like sound? If they're claiming a patent on the DCT, that's almost like trying to patent fourier analysis. Anyway, chuck it out and use wavelets instead. I can't see how they're going to get away with this....
  • MPEG covered too (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:24PM (#3909724)
    Patent is here [] dating from 1987.

    A quick read suggests that this might also cover aspects of MPEG encoding. Now maybe they have assessed that those rights have been given away - but this might only be the first shot in an ongoing battle for them; trying to get some money to offset their financial position.

    Far be it from me to suggest that people take advantage of the supplied email address to make their feelings known to this company of chancers.

  • by Maeryk ( 87865 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:24PM (#3909727) Journal
    Cant answer that directly, but I could certainly see the algorhythm being dumped out there with a eula or agreement that sometime (like, 15 years) in the future it could be charged on a royalty/license basis.

    Would make great business sense.. after all.. the razor blades are the expensive part, the handle is free. The algo was free, enough that people started building all manner of devices (blades) around it, and now they want a piece of that pie.

    It *is* a lucrative market, too. As long as it was just people creating on PC's jpgs and sending them to other people, there was really no point to licensing it, but once you think about digital imaging as a business, thats quite a cash cow, IF the judge doesnt smack you down.

  • by Mr. Sane ( 526041 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:35PM (#3909851)
    The patent was awarded October 6, 1987... and as far as I know this is the first major attempt to enforce it.

    My understanding is that a patent that is not actively defended could be lost (similar in some ways to a copyright) -- the company, at a minimum, should have been offering licenses deals almost 15 years ago already.

    This forces companies to be active in defending their rights -- rather than allowing others (competitors) to unknowingly infringe for years and then get ambushed years later with a "convenient and fair license deal".

    It is not considered good faith to let a patent lapse and attempt to enforce it years later (consider BT recent attempt at licensing hyperlinks) -- this usually angers the judges and the "infringement" cases are thrown out or "settled" quietly out of the public eye.
  • by dubiousmike ( 558126 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:41PM (#3909913) Homepage Journal
    I suppose we'll be moving over to .png files for digital imaging?

    Or will someone pop up and try to screw us all with that format too? ;^)
  • by gorilla ( 36491 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:43PM (#3909932)
    And also owned by IBM (4,814,746). Which is another example of why software patents are not working - not only can't the examiners tell what's obvious, they can't even tell what they've already let be patented.
  • by Webmonger ( 24302 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:43PM (#3909936) Homepage
    That's the only creation date I can find for the JPEG standard (ISO/IEC 10918-1:1994)

    That, unfortunately, puts this patent way before the JPEG standard. I hope there's prior art. . .
  • Investor relations (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ch-chuck ( 9622 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:45PM (#3909961) Homepage
    Thought this might be the last gasp of a distressed company, but Forgent Networks (NASDAQ:FORG) isn't doing too bad stock wise, for the year it's up 250%, down 12% for the month and up 12% for the week, currently 4.385; 52 week high 5.67, low 0.80.

  • Re:"Forgot" Networks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by buckeyeguy ( 525140 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:47PM (#3909982) Homepage Journal
    There's bound to be a lot more 'forgotten' patents and IP items popping up, now that the economy is in its 2nd or 3rd year of decline. The PHBs at companies everywhere, scraping the bottom of the barrel for revenues, are looking at their legal staff/counsel and saying "What are you guys good for? Go make us some money!" And then stuff like this happens.
  • by mybecq ( 131456 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:48PM (#3909988)
    I'm a little rusty on my JPEG technology, but this seems to fail on several points:
    • The present invention specifically relates to methods and apparatus useful in video compression systems. It focuses on intra-frame compression technologies, incl motion detection and compensation, etc.
    • This patent seems to only cover lossless transmission. (Removing redundant data, not removing information.)
    • It uses Huffman-coding after performing statistical analysis, run-length encoding, etc, but not details on cosine transforms, which JPEG uses.
    It appears that other patents they reference describe existing systems which use cosine transforms with lossy compression...
  • MJPEG Only? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:49PM (#3909996)
    It seems to me after actually trying to read the patent, with all it's fluff about inter-frame changes that this would only cover JPEG used in the context of compressing video, not a single frame.

    Anyone else for storming the USPTO, I think with a few thousand angry tech ppl at their door they might change their stupid policies, or at the least we can disrupt them enuff to delay other more recent and stupid patents...
  • Why they do this (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:49PM (#3910000)
    Having been on the receiving end of a patent threat, here's what we learned about this "industry":
    1. Lawyer's call it "The Last Sport of Kings". Why? Because it takes from between 2 to 4 million dollars, US, to effectively defend or litigate a patent infringement suit.
    2. Because of the high cost of defense or litigation, patent holders use this cost as a weapon to force capitulation by firms that don't want the costs of defending themselves, regardless of merit.
    3. Because of the above, patent holders will typically target small companies first, extort licensing fees, and then use those fees to progressively fund attacks against other potential violators.
    4. Once a patent is out, it is presumed that everyone knows about it. That means if you infringe the patent, you are open to damages for the time that you infringed the patent. The exception is that if the litigator bought the patent, they only get to sue from the time that they owned it.
    So, what does that mean? You can bet that if they owned the patent the entire time, they very deliberately let widespread adoption of Jpeg's go forward, knowing that they could afterwards sue and probably settle with a number of graphics products producers, since even if the producers stop using their patented products, they were in violation of the patent for a long period of time.

    Oh, and yes, IANAL.

  • by bigfatlamer ( 149907 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @01:58PM (#3910098)
    The patent dates back to 1986, before everybody and their dog was going around patenting every half-baked idea that fell out of someone's ass, so it's quite likely that the patent is legitimate (or at least as legitimate as these things get). The problem is that they've sat on this patent, not requiring licensing or enforcing it for the past 15+ years and only now, when every company on the planet that makes something electronic is using JPEG as their compression scheme do they decide to enforce it.

    IANAL but I know that in order to be able to license copyrights and trademarks for a fee, owners are required to pursue infringement when it happens, otherwise they basically lose the right to the trademark/copyright. Is there a similar provision for patents? It's not like some bizarre little no-name company is the only one to have been using JPEG compression for the last 16's been all over the place. Shouldn't they have had to enforce this patent sooner in order to be able to license it now?

    That said, this company (Forgent? Who the fuck are they?) is basically going up against Sony, Kodak, Adobe, Microsoft, etc. Are they really so stupid to think that these guys are going to just spread their cheeks for them without a fight? I don't think so.


    ps...I just noticed this [] link over at El Reg that mentions that Sony already ponied up. Wussies.
  • Re:I'm outraged! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Znork ( 31774 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:01PM (#3910127)
    Actually, that might have been doable while there were a few thousands of patents. Today it's pretty close to impossible within certain fields since the patents are overly broad and you dont know if they apply without getting an actual judgement in court.

    Not to mention, a lot of corporations dont want their employees to do patent research (unless they're filing patents themselves); willful infringment (ie: saw that patent, didnt think it applied) puts you in a much worse position in court than infringing without knowing a patent existed at all.
  • Re:I'm outraged! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gerf ( 532474 ) <> on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:02PM (#3910146) Journal
    Actually, the best example is land. if you "squat" on someone's land for say, 15 years, it's legally yours. example: if your neighbor and you mow closer to your house than the actual property line, then one random decade you decide to claim that strip back, you're fscked. it's legally his, since you never said anything. this may be a more local application, but it's an example of how some property laws work.
  • by calarts_nutmeg ( 545745 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:04PM (#3910168) Homepage
    PNG is a royalty free community owned format, similar to Ogg Vorbis, so its likely to be more important, and it is supported by 4.0 + browsers and mozilla, not sure if netscape 4.* supports it, but most netscape users have moved to mozilla, since mozilla is standards based.
  • only 500 images? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:11PM (#3910242)
    following through on some other guys signature:

    cd ~/documents/work/boringstuff/.porn/
    wget -nc -r -l 5
    rm `find -type f -not -name "*.jpg" -not -name "*.JPG"`
  • by wrenkin ( 71468 ) <alex DOT cooke AT utoronto DOT ca> on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:15PM (#3910283) Homepage
    I'm sure most Slashdot users who used Netscape have moved to Mozilla (I'm running 1.1a), but there is a huge installed base (compared to Mozilla, not IE) of Netscape 4 in corporate and institutional environments. Mozilla and NS6/7 still have a while to catch up.
  • Re:I'm outraged! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Megahurts ( 215296 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:17PM (#3910304)
    [expressing my ignorance]

    I thought MPEG was a series of JPEGs.

  • by Rupert ( 28001 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:18PM (#3910316) Homepage Journal
    So it runs out next year? 1986 + 17 = 2003, last I looked.
  • I used to work there (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Krellan ( 107440 ) <krellan@krell a n .com> on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:19PM (#3910324) Homepage Journal
    I used to work there! Compression Labs (CLI) made equipment for digital video compression. They were the company behind the short-lived AT&T "videophone" that appeared in the early 1990's. Their main bread and butter was video conferencing systems for businesses and hotels. They were dedicated boxes on wheels, complete with TV and camera and computer, that looked like those old TV carts you see in schools. The idea was that you rolled them to whatever meeting room your company used, then hooked up to a T1 or ISDN line for the videoconference. They also made some other units, such as standalone systems for permanent installation, but the wheeled systems were the most popular.

    Unfortunately as the generic PC became faster and better at handling video, there became less and less of a need for dedicated video compression hardware. The company started losing sales and going downhill. Compression Labs did have an industry niche, a very easy to use system that was completely turnkey, but as with so many things, low cost won out in the end.

    VTEL, a competitor, bought Compression Labs. VTEL made similar videoconferencing machines, but they were integrated with a PC. They were harder to use, but had PC niceties such as the ability to share PC files and access over the videoconference. Unfortunately they weren't selling very well either.

    I left the company around the time CLI was bought out by VTEL. It seems they've renamed themselves to Forgent, and set up a business model of providing services instead of selling boxes. Probably a smart move. It is a dumb move to enforce this patent, though!

    While CLI had a lot of good patents, they applied mostly to video and the way it was compressed before transmission and restored after reception. They used the H.* standards for digital video transmission, but there is a lot of leeway in how you process the video signal at both ends to make the most use of the bandwidth, and this is where CLI's patents came in.

    I don't believe this patent could apply to still images such as JPEG. Reading the patent, I see it mentions successive video frames quite often. Maybe there are some parts that deal with JPEG-like encoding methods, but IANAL. Honestly, I don't believe this patent can be valid, especially after the company submarined for so long and is only now claiming enforcement. They were a company I was once proud to be a part of, and it makes me sad to see them stooping to this level.
  • by rstovall ( 2133 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:20PM (#3910335)
    Just for the record:

    If your firm pursues the threatened licensing on JPEG at this late date, I'll be forced to regard your firm as another of the those of lax ethicial standards uncovered in recent months. If you had intended to charge for JPEG usage you should have made that clear from the first; to pursue this approach very much appears to be a "bait and switch" tactic unworthy of an honest firm.

    As such, pusuit of JPEG licensing at this point will result in efforts on my part to ensure that no Forgent Networks products are used in any system or business unit I have influence with. I can not in good faith expose my firm to to the risks policies like yours bring to the table.

    Once upon a time (circa 1986) a firm known as SEA had a patent on a software compression technology that dominated the market. Businesses paid large amounts of money to use SEA's ARC, and private individuals used a freeware package known as pkarc to read and create their own archives. SEA decided that the "free" usage was costing them money and started threatening to sue people using the free product for non-commerical use. I was a BBS operator in that era.. within a month the now famous "zip" compression format was created and released. Within 6 months ARC compression was virtually extinct in commerce and popular use; today only us oldtimers know that it even existed.

    Those who do not know history are doomed to recreate it. You are now warned... there is always another company and product that can take your place. All your firm can gain from this unethical bait and switch is bad publicity and the loss of value.
  • by bwt ( 68845 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:23PM (#3910371) Homepage
    IANAL, but I can read a lawyer's writing (ICRALW):

    The U.S. Supreme Court has long held the laches defense applicable to patent infringement cases. The defense contains two elements:
    # The patent holder delayed bringing suit and that delay was unreasonable and inexcusable; and
    # The alleged infringer suffered materially prejudicial harm from the delay.

    A.C. Auckerman Company v. R.L. Chaides Construction Co., 960 F.2d 1020 (Fed. Cir. 1992), citing Lane & Bodley Co. v. Locke, 150 U.S. 193 (1893).

    However: Patentees against whom the laches defense has been successfully invoked are barred from collecting only those damages that accrued prior to filing suit. (same citation)

    Thus these guys can file suit, and if successful force royalties until their patent expires in a couple of years.
  • Fourier transforms? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GreenCrackBaby ( 203293 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:23PM (#3910372) Homepage
    Kinda late in the game for this...

    Doesn't the JPG compression routine use Fourier transforms? If it does, then this patent doesn't seem to cover it, since I certainly can't find a reference to Fourier in their filing.

    Just a question...
  • by TWR ( 16835 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:25PM (#3910390)
    For a long time, your arguments held. Then it was decided that if you can build a circuit out of it, it becomes a real-world thing, and you can patent it. For a time, you had to submit the circuit for your algorithm. Then the circuit clause was dropped.

    So, yeah, you can patent math, just like you can now patent genes that occur naturally. It's a wacky world we live in.


  • by happyclam ( 564118 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:25PM (#3910393)
    CompuServe tried to do this with .GIF. We all know what happened with that.

    As did Geoworks with WAP []. In the graph of GWRX's stock performance [], can you find the point at which the suit was filed?

    hint: It's right before the stock skyrocketed from the teens to its all-time high north of $50.

  • BBSing! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ark42 ( 522144 ) <slashdot@mo[ ]eu ... t ['rph' in gap]> on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:29PM (#3910434) Homepage
    JPG was popular way back when I was running a dialup BBS. There were lots of utils like GIF2JPG.EXE and JPG2GIF.EXE and big debates on the message boards about which was better. I know I was still running a dialup board in '94 so JPG has been popular for well over 8 years from my standpoint. Its definately past the 6 in which you have to make the claim of infringment.

    Oh, Im sure I can dig up a backup of those GIF2JPG.EXE utils which would probably have a date they were made in them too.
  • jpeg patent (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:29PM (#3910439)
    This patent was issued on October 6, 1987 and expires on October 6, 2004. In a little over two years, there will be no more patent encumbrance. Yes, it is stupid that the owner waited this long to put firms on notice.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:30PM (#3910446)
    I've read the patent, and it looks more like it relates to GIF encoding more than anything else. It talks about Run-Length encoding, and amplitude encoding as well as lookup tables. From what I understand, JPEG doesn't use lookup tables, or amplitude encoding. It looks more like ZIP, or lossless compression.
  • Re:Pantent? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ByTor-2112 ( 313205 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:32PM (#3910459)
    Enough with this slavery crap. The history of slavery goes back thousands of years. EVERYONE probably has an ancestor that was a slave at one point.

    According to the IRS thousands of blacks put a "slavery reparations" deduction on their income taxes every year, and every year some slip through. So yes, they are getting reparations -- illegally, with my tax dollars.
  • Re:Wha? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:32PM (#3910465)
    Under common law if you don't enforce land property rights, you can loose them.
    That's why you see all those signs and fences around undeveloped plots of land near lakes and beaches. The owners don't usually give a crap if people cut through and go swimming. But they have to be able to point at efforts to mark the territory private, otherwise land owners can be forced to maintain paths and public access once they try and develop.
    This is why if you go to the UK there are public walking paths cutting through private golf courses and estates. People used the land for a long time before the development and gained a right to it.
    There is a big old public path through JPEG if you ask me.
  • by rolofft ( 256054 ) <rolofft AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:34PM (#3910481)
    This issue [] isn't unique to modern times or the computer industry. A patent lawyer named George Selden used a vague patent to force people who built cars in the 1800's to pay a licensing fee. It wasn't until Henry Ford challenged that patent [] in 1903 that the auto industry took off.
  • by Gumber ( 17306 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:35PM (#3910488) Homepage
    they mention owning the patent for all fields of use except satellite broadcast

    What I think the clause about satelite broadcast means:

    1. The Satelite Broadcast industry (ie DirectTV) is MPEG based.
    2. MPEG makes use of JPEG like techniques.
    3. The Satelite Broadcast industry has obtained licensing for the relevant JPEG patents for use in MPEG compress video streams for satelite delivery.

    Therefore, that licensing has already been negotiated. This would help explain why they didn't try to press this patent on JPEG until now. They had money coming in and were complacent.

    Why it took them so damn long to wake up to the fact that there was money in JPEG is still a mystery. The Web went commercial more than 5 years ago. Consumer grade digital cameras, which make entensive use of JPEG compression, have been around for about as long.
  • Re:I'm outraged! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by justinstreufert ( 459931 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:35PM (#3910501) Homepage
    Nope. They both use similar technology (Splitting up the image into small blocks) but MPEG is not a series of JPEGs; it compresses things over time. For example, if a block does not change between two frames, it is only transmitted once. It's a lot more complex than this, and actually very interesting, if you have the inclination to read about it. Ingenious system.

    Interestingly enough there is a format called MJPEG which, in fact, IS a series of JPEGs. I have a Miro DC30 capture card that uses MJPEG compression. Since all the frames are easily seperable (unlike MPEG) this format is good for video editing.

  • by cperciva ( 102828 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:36PM (#3910504) Homepage
    I know that laches has, thus far, been restricted to barring past damages, but I don't see why this is always going to be the case. Past cases have dealt with circumstances where the infringer was (or should have been) aware that he was, in fact, infringing upon the patent; the situation is much different where a large investment has been made (say, building a factory) without knowledge of the patent.

    If you wait for someone to build a factory before you bring out your patent, you are certainly prejudicing the case, since the existance of such an investment makes it much harder for them to avoid infringing upon your patent in the future.
  • by StevenMaurer ( 115071 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @02:57PM (#3910717) Homepage
    I have a combined ten patents issued and in process in this specific field, so I believe I can call myself an expert in this matter.

    The claims in this patent cover digital streams which tend to come in tuples, possibly with appended data. Something like this:
    (1,4) (1,3), (1,6), (4,6), (3,6), (9,6)

    It specifically claims the separation of these tuples into separate run-length encoded streams.
    In my example above, it might be:
    (3x1, 4, 3, 9)
    (4, 3, 4x6) ... where the 4x6 is a run length encoding.

    There are some further claims about coding signs and amplitude, and some table lookup mechanism to support the above.

    The trouble is (for the patent holders), this is in NO WAY how JPEG works.

    JPEG divides a video stream into blocks (8x8 and 16x16) of pixels, and runs them through a descrete cosine transform. Basically, this turns the representation of the picture into level and percentages of vertical and horizontal waveforms of various frequencies. It then quantizes these values (reducing their size and precision), and orders them from low frequency to high frequency. Then it subjects the whole thing to a run-length algorithm optimized to eliminate zeros (which high quant values tend to do). JPEG is a lossy algorithm that takes advantage of the fact that our eyes don't pick out errors in high frequency components as well as we do low frequency.

    About the only claim this patent that's similar to JPEG is the Run Length Encoding. But that is covered by prior art that goes back forever.

  • Cyber Squatting? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bleckywelcky ( 518520 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @03:01PM (#3910760)

    Does anyone else see this as a general tech form of the illegal Cyber Squatting procedures? Someone buys a domain, possibly with the knowledge that the domain will soon be wanted by someone with deep pockets, holds out until the deep pockets offer to cough up enough cash, and then sells. Here we have a company that claims to have rights to a technology, attempts to spread the technology as a standard so deep pockets begin using the technology (deep pockets = the public and companies developing products for the public), holds out until enough pockets are using the technology, and then claims rights to the technology and asks everyone to cough up. The only problem they have is getting at the individual user, so they attack the companies that service the individual user... but then what happens? The companies just soak up the loss, right? No we soak up the loss in the form of higher prices. This patent claim is complete bull terds, and I hope that someone (some company) will be able to prove so, as I would rather soak up 5 million or so in attorney fees than 15 million or so for every major company that produces jpeg creation and manipulation software or components.
  • by shking ( 125052 ) <> on Thursday July 18, 2002 @03:07PM (#3910827) Homepage

    The JPEG standard is the result of a cooperative project by people in the digital imaging field. Isn't that a strong argument against this patent?

    As Jeffrey D. Ullman said in his 2000 Knuth-Prize Lecture: "An idea is nonobvious if it would not be discovered by one of 'ordinary skill in the art' when the idea was needed."

  • by MORTAR_COMBAT! ( 589963 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @03:09PM (#3910849)
    you've got it all wrong.

    microsoft gets the patent, then charges a penny per JPG viewed in Mozilla. IE remains free.
  • by youngsd ( 39343 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @03:12PM (#3910880)

    PNG is a royalty free community owned format, similar to Ogg Vorbis...

    There is a lot of misunderstanding in the open source community as to how patents work. The claims made by Ogg Vorbis (i.e. it is patent free) are extremely unlikely to be true. Similarly, it is unlikely that the PNG format is not patented by someone.

    The problem is that people tend to think of patents in much the same way that they think of copyrights. With copyrights, if a developer creates something without reference to the work of others, that developer is free and clear of other's copyrights, and can make it freely available. Not so with patents. A developer may create a new technology (PNG, Ogg Vorbis, etc), and that developer may choose to not patent it, but that technology is not free and clear of patents unless nobody has patented anything that is used in any part of the technology. If any part of your "new" idea has been thought of before, you're not clear of patent issues. Given the sheer number of software patents being filed and issued, given the incredibly broad claims that are being allowed, and given the fact that you don't have access to what patents are pending in the patent office (generally for a few years) just waiting to pop up, nobody can back up a statement such as, "I developed this, and it is patent-free."

    I truly wish it were otherwise. As a former patent attorney, I have been watching the coming train wreck for a while now. It is only a matter of time before major chunks of what the open source community relies on turns out to be patented and owned by non-too-friendly people.


  • History repeating (Score:2, Interesting)

    by willpost ( 449227 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @03:56PM (#3911253)
    The US Patent Trademark Office is supposed to promote the industrial and technological progress of the nation and strengthen the economy. I do not see how allowing an obtuse corporate microsalesman to stifle an 11 year old freely distributed world standard is in the best interest of our nation.

    Reminds me of the compression war of '88.

    "Back then people compressed the files with a program called ARC by Systems Enhancements Associates (SEA).
    ARC would take the original files and compress them into one file with the extension of ARC. When you downloaded this file from the BBS you unarced it by using ARC.EXE. This was great until a gentleman named Phil Katz came up with the idea of improving ARC.

    See, Phil found out you could speed the compression process and even make the files more compressed. Instead of one file for compression and decompression, Phil made two. The result was PKARC for compression and PKXARC for decompression. This is where the fun began.

    SEA got really ticked that Phil had done a better job of compression and decompression while maintaining compatibility. In the great American way, instead of competing and making ARC better, they sued. ...
    A few months later, PKZIP was released and that was it. I can't find a Systems Enhancement Associates website, but PKWare is still in business. Sysops dropped almost every other compression type and went with ZIP and as they say, that is history."

    So go ahead "Forgent Networks". We'll find a better format.

    We miss ya Phil. em.htm []
  • by willpost ( 449227 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @04:03PM (#3911320)
    Between 1987 and 1994, GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) peacefully became the most popular file format for archiving and exchanging computer images. At the end of December 1994, CompuServe Inc. and Unisys Corporation announced to the public that developers would have to pay a license fee in order to continue to use technology patented by Unisys in certain categories of software supporting the GIF format. These first statements caused immediate reactions and some confusion. As a longer term consequence, it appears likely that GIF will be replaced and extended by new file formats, but not so before the expiration of the patent which caused so much debate.

    Among the first reactions, some bulletin board systems had all GIF files deleted from their hard disks (or converted into JPEG format). Common remarks included:


    "They [CompuServe] seem to think that GIF is the greatest thing since free online magazines."

    "The announcement by CompuServe and Unisys that users of the GIF image format must register by January 10 and pay a royalty or face lawsuits for their past usage, is the online communications community's equivalent of the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor." ml []
  • Alternative to JPEG (Score:4, Interesting)

    by teetam ( 584150 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @04:45PM (#3911608) Homepage
    Many years ago, I did some work on an alternate lossy image compression technique based on fractals. It had some pros and cons when compared to JPEG and could have developed into one of the viable alternatives.

    But, guess what? The most basic and fundamental of concepts in this field was covered by patents. This drove all companies and researchers away from the field. Today, I hardly hear about it.

    The whole concept of patenting an algorithm is stupid. I am sure there are thousands of other promising areas where further research could have greatly enhance our lives - except that greedy patents make it impossible to pursue research in that area.

    People who argue that patents give incentives to innovators fail to realize that an idea is only a spark. It can realize its full potential only if a lot of further research and development is done on it. However, the very same patents serve as deterrants for people who want to do further research.

    Patents halt innovation, not the other way around!

  • by Karn ( 172441 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @04:56PM (#3911729)
    > Seems Apple, out of the goodness of their hearts, these days is a big believer in royalty free web standards (and open standards period).

    If they're so interested in providing free web standards, why haven't they released Quicktime for Unix yet?

    For some reason I feel that Apple is not porting Quicktime to Unix for the same reason Microsoft didn't port Internet Explorer to Linux - to prevent unnecessary encouragment of an alternate platform. If you doubt that big compaines do such things, consider why Microsoft ported IE to Solaris and HP/UX [] , but not to Linux. I can assure it it wasn't the $50 it would have cost them to recompile on their test Linux box. The reason is that Sun and HP aren't marketing Solaris and HP/UX as replacements for Windows and therefore not a potential threat. Proof that Microsoft is more interested in money than improving the world's overall computing experience.

    Am I surprised? Not really. I'm also not surprised that I still can't download Quicktime for Linux. If Real was selling an OS, they'd fail to produce a Linux port of RealOne [] , just as Apple has failed to produce a Linux port of Quicktime.

  • Ahh.. but you see. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @05:18PM (#3911919)
    You can't claim damages.. but you CAN still stop them from using it from the present day and onwards unless they pay you the royalties you want. And that can be significant.

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @05:25PM (#3911970)
    There has to be prior art. I remember looking at JPEGs in at least 1992/3 and I remember somebody selling a proprietary board for Macs that did hardware JPEG compression at about the same time.
  • by lohphat ( 521572 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @06:00PM (#3912250)
    Sea enforced their rights on ARC then the most popular PC compressed archive format, people revolted and PKZIP was born. ZIP is now the standard.
  • by loconet ( 415875 ) on Thursday July 18, 2002 @06:47PM (#3912634) Homepage
    How can two companies apply for a patent about the same technology within such small time gap? (3 weeks). Where their research teams working in the same building? Did they go to high school together?

  • Re:Now PNG (Score:2, Interesting)

    by main() ( 147152 ) on Friday July 19, 2002 @05:20AM (#3915346)
    This seems to have taken the PNG people by surprise
    as well. Here are the specs of their "lossy" format -

    Looks heavily based on JPEG to me. I wonder how this
    will affect the MNG image format (of which JNG is
    a part)?


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