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ISO Could Withdraw JPEG Standard 457

McSpew writes "According to The Register, the ISO is prepared to withdraw JPEG as a standard if Forgent Networks continues to assert its patent claims over JPEG's compression algorithm." I'm sure the JPEG committee would still be happy to hear of prior art.
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ISO Could Withdraw JPEG Standard

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  • Oh NO!!!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by rgsmith ( 473418 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @02:34PM (#3938846)
    Just think of all the Pr0N I'll have to pay royalties on!
  • Am I the only one who thinks the ISO should stand up and fight the good fight?

    Maybe this would be a way to stop this patent / Intellectual Property nightmare once and for all.

    What about patents not applying if the implementation is open source and not-for-profit?

    Well, I guess I can keep on dreaming... =(
    • Re:Oh, please... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Tayto ( 4193 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @02:38PM (#3938894) Homepage
      Fight what good fight? Forgent broke no laws. Ethically they may be far from clean, but there is no case to be fought here in the courts. Perhaps it can be used to highlight the futility of patents in the public mind, and to other governments around the world - but as it stands, patents are too entrenched in the US for anything to remove them.

      The only thing that could improve the situation is that the MPAA find that patents are beginning to eat into their profits, and get their pet senators into action ;-)
      • Fight what good fight? Forgent broke no laws. Ethically they may be far from clean, but there is no case to be fought here in the courts.
        You don't have to have "broken any laws" to fail to collect from a patent. There are many reasons why a patent may be invalid, such as prior art.
      • Re:Oh, please... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Zeinfeld ( 263942 )
        Fight what good fight? Forgent broke no laws. Ethically they may be far from clean, but there is no case to be fought here in the courts. Ethically they may be far from clean, but there is no case to be fought here in the courts.

        That remains to be seen.

        It is far from clear that a party may legally make a demand for payment on the basis of a spurious IP claim.

        The claim that a party has paid $15 million to buy a patent license sounds very fishy to me. It is considerably greater than would normally be paid in that situation.

        There is certainly a claim to be fought in the courts. The various manufacturers who have been targetted by begging letters from Forgent are likely to have many legal defenses. It is highly unlikely that a case will be heard before the patent expires in 2004 however.

    • ISO is a standardization body, it does nobody any good for them to get in the middle of a stupid dispute like this.
    • Am I the only one who thinks the ISO should stand up and fight the good fight?

      The problem is the whole patent system. You don't fight that by overturning a single patent claim: You do it by rigorously applying the existing scheme. If that leads to unacceptable results, that will demonstrate the problem.
      • Re:Wrong approach (Score:2, Insightful)

        by martyn s ( 444964 )
        Unfortunately, most of the people who have any power to change the patent system are quite happy with things as they are. And of the people who don't have that power, most of them don't really understand the problem, and therefore they don't really care.
      • >that will demonstrate the problem.

        You make the assumption that when people see the ill-effects of a problem, they know where the problem is coming from (nevermind what a suitable solution is.)

        Thats a big, and usually incorrect assumption.
    • Re:Oh, please... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sangui5 ( 12317 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @03:42PM (#3939384)

      Am I the only one who thinks the ISO should stand up and fight the good fight?

      It isn't in any way ISO's job to fight patents.

      The JPEG people (remember, JPEG is the Joint Photograpphic Experts Group, not just a compression standard) are the ones who will fight the good fight--them and their members. JPEG itself can only do inexpensive things, and probably couldn't force a lawsuit even if they had the money. What they can do is organize their members (who do have money) into working together in the pursuit of evidence that the patent claims are invalid. which is what they are doing [].

      What about patents not applying if the implementation is open source and not-for-profit?

      There is a relatively new area of law, equitable estopple (spelling? eh, IANAL, so don't need to write it), which covers this. In this situation it more or less says that given that the owners of the patent knew (or should have known) that their tech was being incorporated into a free standard, they should have spoken up then, and can't now. Letting someone incorporate your IP into a standard, and letting them believe that they hadn't, is a no-no. Refusing to let them use it is OK, but you have to speak up quickly.

      Additionally, there is the defense of laches, which more generally covers not enforcing a patent for a long time. If, given you had been reasonably diligent, you would have been aware of infringement (or you actually were aware), and you do nothing for a long time (6 years is the standard, more or less by situation), then you forfeit your enforcement rights for past infringement. A quote I saw on it went like "Those who sleep on their rights can't expect to exercise them."

  • Finally... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Critical_ ( 25211 )
    Its about time that a precedent be set in the patent-crap(tm) going on these days. If a company is going to assert its patents and charge people for it after so long, it is more than justified to play hardball and in essence say "we'll pull your patent-laden bullsh*t off the list of standards". Okay sure, the alternatives are there but disk-space/image-quality/browser support must be there before anything will work. Before anyone says that PNG works as a replacement, I would have to say that the size increase alone prohibits their use especially on high-traffic sites where bandwidth counts.
  • by SpanishInquisition ( 127269 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @02:39PM (#3938907) Homepage Journal
    Since every image format known to man seems to be under the control of some kind of patent, I propose that the ONLY supported graphic format for all our web applications should be ASCII art, that way we should avoid all the patent mess, also ASCII art is probably the most widely available format and already has a module for gimp [].
    • What makes you think "ASCII art" is unpatentable?
  • by smashr ( 307484 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @02:41PM (#3938913)
    As strange as it sounds, this is actually a good move. We do NOT want jpeg on the list of standards if an entity can maintain patented control over it. Granted we will all still use jpeg, however ISO is definatly trying to make a point here - "you cant exclusively own it, and have it be an open standard" we should be happy that ISO is standing up for this!
    • Granted we will all still use jpeg, however...
      That sentence embodies much of what's wrong with "the slashdot mentality". If you really don't like this patent bullshit, you should attempt to make a switch to PNG. If you merely say "this sucks", then continue to eat the tripe you're being fed, you've succeeded only in whining.
      • by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @03:26PM (#3939267) Homepage
        -2 for a lack of understanding in social dynamics. Like a flock of birds, humans need to generally be aware that we all agree on something (JPEG is not worth using anymore) before they actually _DO_ something about it.

        So no, whining isn't a bad thing, because, if one year down the road our social collective asserts that JPEGs time has come due to the groundword of people expressing dissatisfaction with it now, it will be much easier to move to something else in one fell swoop.

        Being a martyr can be useful, but more often its useless. Education takes time, but our actions are far more effective once everybody is on the same page.
        • by mosch ( 204 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @05:42PM (#3940287) Homepage
          My exact words were that you should attempt to make a switch to PNG. If such a switch is not practical for your content, then clearly this isn't a good option. Nowhere did I suggest that you should induce suffering or death upon yourself over some JPEG-related patents.

          Whining is a bad thing, because habitual complaints put the attention of the complainers, not the problem itself. 1,000 posts noting the state of the patent system, corporate greed and a lack of ethics in modern society will not get us royalty-free jpegs, end microsoft's desktop monopoly, cause the RIAA to support P2P, cause the MPAA to support transferable digital video content, allow musicians to get paid, prevent violations of the GPL or give you a way to overclock your Celeron 300 to be faster than a daul Athlon MP 2100+.

          On the other hand, discussions about possible solutions for each issue, methods to educate the public about the problem and methods to enact action at a local level can make a difference. Perhaps somebody here works for a corporation of sufficient size and influence to get proper PNG support in the next version of IE. Perhaps somebody here has been thinking about implementing support for another graphics format in mozilla, and might be driven to take that step.

          It's impossible to know what could be accomplished if slashdot attempted to direct the energy it spends mindlessly whining at analyzing the problems the community has identified, and analyzing possible solutions.

          Whining on slashdot is masturbation, it may be fun but it doesn't change anything. Pretending otherwise is as unrealistic as my hope that this post may inspire a rational discussion as to what the realistic remedies to this situation are, and what the full impact of this situation really is.

          After all, perhaps somebody could talk to these folks and get them to license the patent for free to open source software, thus garnering good will, and they could then just milk the PhotoShops and such of the world.

          Of course that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

      • What nonsense:

        First, PNG is no alternative for JPEG since JPEG, being lossy, compresses much better (which is needed for certain applications such as photography).

        Second, you cannot expect the whole world to switch away from very widely used protocols/standards each time some company claims to hold some patent.

        If anything, this issue shows how bad, dangerous, damaging software patents are. They cause lots of economic damage, and could lead to illogical behaviour (it is illogical to launch an enormous migration effort for such reasons) wasting lots of money and human resources. It is very good that ISO makes a point here. That has nothing to do with a so called slashdot mentality (as if ISO would suffer from such).
  • So what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dlek ( 324832 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @02:41PM (#3938918)
    So far as I can tell, this is what the ISO certainly should do, according to the letter and spirit of their policies. But I doubt it will have any effect on the situation except as a feel-good measure for those against the patent claim. I can't see how it will put any pressure on the dicks trying to claim patent rights; even if the ISO withdraws official standing, it will remain a de facto standard.
  • by theRhinoceros ( 201323 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @02:42PM (#3938932)
    It's also about every device that captures JPEG (digicams) and renders JPEG (web browsers) that is big enough for Forgent to demand money from. Personal decisions to move to PNG are fine and dandy and probably will win you some personal satisfaction, but in the greater scheme of things, JPEG is more entrenched in computing than a simple "OK, let's just whip up a script to batch everything over to PNG."
    • by Neon Spiral Injector ( 21234 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @03:15PM (#3939191)
      People always mention the move to PNG as a solution to the JPEG patent problem. PNGs and JPEGs are targeted at different uses. PNGs are lossLESS, JPEGs are lossY. Take a photograph of a forest scene, save it at a PNG then convert it to a JPEG, look at the file sizes. Even a 90% quality JPEG is going to be smaller. But the PNG image is the one you are going to want to do your editing work on as repeat saves are not going to degrade the quality. But a 1600x1200 PNG with lots of small details will run around 1 MB, not something you want to have 100s of in your online photo collection.
      • *takes 3200x2400 Terragen render*
        *resizes to 1600x1200*

        In jpeg format, it's 922KB @ 100% quality (from Photoshop 7)
        In PNG (run through PNGCrush with -brute -l 9 -reduce) it's *waits for PNGCrush to finish* 1.72MB

        I'd post links to the two samples of the image, but I'd prefer it if my 32KB/s DSL upload weren't raped by /.'ers
  • premature? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by minus_273 ( 174041 )
    does any one else think that this may be a bit premature? after all, they have merely said that they may have patants on parts of the algorithm. As far as we know -- an obviously we dont know everything -- they have not proved it yet.
    In addition, what is the point of doing it now? AFIK there were legal limits on enforcing your patent after you let people adopt it.
    Personally, i have nothing against patents but this does seem rather silly.
  • by shoppa ( 464619 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @02:43PM (#3938941)
    How does this affect libjpeg, which comes as part of nearly (OK, not in my favorite, Linux From Scratch []) every Linux distribution?

    It's clear that Forgent is going after companies that develop browsers, sell image editing tools, etc., but on your typical Unix/Linux platform these tools often are "just" linked to libjpeg where the real encoding and decoding is done. In this case might they try to go after anyone whose name appears in the libjpeg sources? Ack!

  • ...that it is time for jpeg2000.

    Too bad this patent covers the whole spectrum of compressing images by removing redundant data.
    • by SnapShot ( 171582 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @03:20PM (#3939221)
      What's t say that some other lawyer isn't going to claim that thay have a patent on one or more of the algorithms used in Jpeg 2000?

      A search on patents using "image AND compression" at the US Patent office returned 21314 hits for 1996 through 2002, 6592 from 1991 through 1995, and 3741 from 1986 through 1990. That's a total of 31647 patents in 12 years.

      Are you trying to tell me that there is nothing in the Jpeg 2000 specification that couldn't be shoehorned to fit within one of these 31 thousand patents given a sufficiently unscrupulous company and a technically clueless judge???
      • What's t say that some other lawyer isn't going to claim that thay have a patent on one or more of the algorithms used in Jpeg 2000?

        The JPEG committee, which is developing the JPEG2000 standard, has issued a call to entities who claim to own patents on technologies necessary to implement JPEG2000 compression to disclose their intellectual property. The companies that have disclosed such patents have agreed to license them to the general public on a royalty-free basis.

  • by Real World Stuff ( 561780 ) <> on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @02:44PM (#3938953) Journal
    Microsoft to enforce ".exe" patent. Bill Gates quoted, "All your program are belong to us."

  • Too late. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ( 142825 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @02:44PM (#3938955) Homepage
    Even if the ISO turns JPG into a non-standard, it is in too much use to make a difference. The idea of a standard is to establish the common use and give people safety in having a known way to implement/work with this "standard." This is already done. Forgent has already stole this benefit!

    I want this patent invalidated, then the companies that paid money to go after them for fraud.

  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @02:45PM (#3938958) Homepage
    I own a cute little Canon Digital Elph that happens to save images in the formerly-standard JPEG format.

    Exactly what happens if the patent is upheld? Am I personally liable? In theory, could Forgent come after me for royalties?

    What happens if you buy and use a product that later on turns out to infringe on someone's patent?

    Offhand I don't recall any language in any fine print anywhere that says I'm held harmless, it's all the vendor's fault.
    • Well, that's where reality sets in - there is no way to track ALL the purchasers of hardware and software that uses the JPEG patent. However, Forgent will go after the manufacturers, most of whom will cave in to their demands.

      This whole debacle makes me ashamed to be from Texas. We're supposed to be above this sort of horseshit.
    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      Canon would be.

      If you made software which did any work with jpegs, however, then yes... you would be.

      The amount of software out there that does this is STAGGGERING... Personally, I just think we should ignore it, tell Forgent to go F*** themselves, and by the time they get around to really suing anybody the patent will have expired. Meanwhile, the big boys that Forgent did manage to get into court can countersue Forgent for fraud, for attempting to enforce patent royalties after over 17 years of it being royalty free.

      If they had wanted their money so badly, they should have started enforcing it when they first patented it, not almost 2 decades later. What Forgent is pulling here is bullsh**, and even _they_ probably know it. Ignore it, and it will go away.

      • Re:No (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Quarters ( 18322 )
        If they had wanted their money so badly, they should have started enforcing it when they first patented it, not almost 2 decades later. What Forgent is pulling here is bullsh**, and even _they_ probably know it. Ignore it, and it will go away.
        As I understand it, Forgent was not the original patent holder. They purchased the patent just a few years ago. If that is true then your ire is misplaced. The anger should be directed at the original patent holder who was nice enough to let people use it royalty free but didn't include any "must be used royalty free in perpetuity" clause in the patent-sale documentation.
  • If it was patented in, what, 1987, won't it expire shortly anyway, like the RSA patent, in, what, 17 years? 2004?

  • by Dthoma ( 593797 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @02:45PM (#3938964) Journal
    You people are all saying "Just switch to PNG" as if it can be done seamlessly and immediately. This is ridiculous. Many images on the Internet are in JPG format. Even assuming people could immediately switch to PNG, this wouldn't solve the problem because JPEG is actually a format where the amount of compression applied to pictures can be varied on a scale of 0 to 100. The amount of compression cannot be fine tuned as well with a PNG image.

    Anyway, the issue at stake here is not just about whether or not JPGs can or cannot be used; if Forgent gets away with this, the door is open for all other companies to get away with submerging their patents and then springing royalties onto us. GIFs have been taken from us, and now it looks as if JPGs will be taken from us as well, and I don't think that it's a good idea to rely on just one picture format. I'd rather have choice, thanks very much.

    • Not to mention that PNG compresses nowhere NEAR as well as JPEG. This is, of course, because PNG is lossless, but the whole point of _using_ JPEG in the first place is because you're probably in a position where the space taken up by the image matters more than pixel-by-pixel accuracy. Convert your software photo album from JPEG to PNG and take a look

      So, as you said... the argument "just switch to PNG" doesn't work because PNG can't and won't do what JPEG does.

  • Prior Art For What? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StevenMaurer ( 115071 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @02:47PM (#3938971) Homepage
    Again, speaking as an expert, Forgent Networks patent has NOTHING to do with JPEG []. It is quite hard to find prior art for a patent claim that doesn't apply.

    One would hope they'd just fight this nusance lawsuit in court.
    • Didn't the Amiga used Run Length Encoding both for it's IFF/ILBM still images, audio and it's .anim files? Does anyone have Fred Fish disks 0-100? I have a copy of Amiga Dos 1.1
    • by Sangui5 ( 12317 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @03:25PM (#3939261)
      They're not claiming ownership of all of JPEG.

      They're claiming that the lossless table-based huffman coding that JPEG does *after* the DCT and quantization steps is covered by their lossless table-based huffman/RLE coding.

      Not that this makes their claim valid--there is likely prior art for such use of Huffman codes, and the original patent holder was a member of JPEG in the late 80's, and therefore obligated to mention their patent then.

      Please stop saying that the patent has nothing to do with JPEG. If rather than reading the crappy html claims, you read the full TIFF version, it becomes clear that their patent is somewhat relevant to JPEG. The more interesting stuff in the patent isn't applicable to JPEG, but the lossless transform they use is.
    • Evidently, there is an early and temporary option in the JPEG spec that uses the Forgent-claimed methods. This means that JPEGs can use the patented methods, although people don't actually make such JPEGs in general. To avoid the patent, support for these would have to be removed. But the real point is that people might find it easier to pay Forgent rather than figure out what kind of JPEGs they've got.
    • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @05:14PM (#3940083) Homepage
      Again, speaking as an expert, Forgent Networks patent has NOTHING to do with JPEG []. It is quite hard to find prior art for a patent claim that doesn't apply.

      Well that may be true, however having had experience of this type of blood sucking weasel facts of that sort do not necessarily do you any good.

      Entrust spent $2 million defeating an absolutely crap patent claim by surety. It was so bogus that the prior art for the claim existed in a 1978 MIT Masters Thesis that is extensively referenced (the thesis is credited with inventing the term digital certificate). However it cost Entrust something like $2 million to defend the claim (and Surety paid a similar amount).

      The underlying problem here is that not only does the US have a corrupt patent system, but the legal system allows spurious claims to be made that cost imense amounts to defend without risk to the party making the claim.

      Nodoby would litigate this type of claim in Europe because the most likely outcome would be that the plaintif would end up paying the costs of the case.

  • Two decades!? (Score:3, Redundant)

    by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @02:52PM (#3939014) Homepage Journal
    According to this document [] utility patents last 20 years and design patents last 15. If as the article indicates this letigation is after two decades of usage in JPEG, then either JPEG existed before the patent or the patent is about to expire, if it hasn't yet done so.
    • Re:Two decades!? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Kalten ( 20368 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @03:29PM (#3939289)

      That's correct for newer patents--utility patents expire 20 years from the date of the patent application.

      Under the older system, however, patents expired 17 years from the date the patent was granted. ISTR that expiry of the JPEG "patent" is covered under that system, rather than the newer one.

  • Can you answer this?

    If a patent doesn't specifically mention a process in the list of claims, but the process is described in the patent, does the patent cover that process?

    The "JPEG patent" doesn't list the JPEG method, nor does it list a technical description of the method in the list of claims. It does describe the JPEG algorithm in the body of the patent. Does the patent cover the JPEG algorithm?
    • They could get additional claims covering any patentable material in the "body" (specification) section of the patent, through a "continuation" application, but the 17-years-from-issuance expiration term applies -- counting from the issuance of the initial patent.
  • Reminds me of the infamous National Lampoon cover:

    (photo of revolver up against dog's head) If You Don't Buy This Magazine, We'll Kill This Dog!

  • ISO irrelevant? (Score:2, Interesting)

    what if ISO threw a party and nobody came?

    For line-art, vectors, and indexed-color graphics, png, gif [bleh], or svg should already be used, but JPEG is in wide use, and there isn't a replacement for lossy compression.

    Slashdot poll time: Will people(companies) 1) pay attention to ISO 2) develop a new format 3) be a conscientous objector 4) move with CowbowNeal to a country without software patents?

    Ironically, our saving grace may come from Microsoft, as they have the employees and the browser to implement any standard they want. They could develop a royalty-free lossy compression format, submit it to ISO/ECMA for certification, and put it in the next IE patch/upgrade within half a year.
  • I hope the WindowMaker wmsetbg PNG bug [] gets resolved soon!


  • Is there really anything that is out there as an alternative? PNG is lossless compression so images are going to be huge.

    I've got thousands of digital camera images on my server. What am I going to convert them into? (the ones that aren't in the RAW format of my camera)

    I'm trying to see something else to use, but JPG is so prolific it's rather hard to find anything that won't cost me somewhere else.

    Any suggestions would be helpful
  • Just fuck em.

    They're claims are worthless, due to the fact that: (1) they had nothing what-so-ever to do with JPEG; (2) There is prior art.

    Aside from that, litigation takes a while. In 2004, these patents expire. Odds are, there's no way in hell they are going to be able to go after a significant number of entities in this 2-year period and win cases. Cases alone can take 2-years.

    This is just a desperate money-grabbing attempt. Besides, what court is going to grant them a patent on JPEG? That'd mean that the entire US government -- including the judicial branch -- would have been infringing on this JPEG patents and would owe billions of dollars to this shitless company.
  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @03:02PM (#3939083)
    Many posters seem to be missing the point. No matter what your religious view of other formats like PNG or GIF, the fact remains that there are plenty of devices out there right now, like digital cameras, (and so obviously will be for the next six months or so tas well) that produce JPG files. Personally I would like to see JPG replaced with a lossless format, or a least an option to select a format without loss and visual artifacts, but for quite a while there is going to be a need for software tools that manipulate JPG files. If this bogus claim is allowed to stand the effect will be that as software is updated it will often no longet support JPG files (remember how fast GIMP dropped GIF support?) It strikes me as pretty intolerable to have to revert to old software to use a camera or a clipart CD. This issue does matter, even if your personal belief is that there are other and better formats.
    • Personally I would like to see JPG replaced with a lossless format, or a least an option to select a format without loss and visual artifacts

      JPG cannot reasonably be replaced with a lossless format. The reason for using JPG in the first place is because it compresses BETTER than any lossless format. And if you _want_ a lossless format, you can use PNG.

  • Patent Priveleges (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Uttles ( 324447 ) <> on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @03:04PM (#3939098) Homepage Journal
    I think this is another case that points to the need for (yuck) more legislation. There needs to be a new law, one that takes the concept of public knowledge and applies it to existing patents. IE, this case, where JPEG has become public knowledge, to the extent it has an ISO standard, yet just now someone comes up saying they have the rights to it because of patent X. As I understand it, you can't gain a patent on something if it's already public knowledge. They need to extend that to say if you have a patent and you make it public knowledge, you can't then claim the rights to the resulting use.

    Basically, this is like someone patenting a water powered car, then letting everyone build there own because they don't have the money to have a manufacturing facility, and then 5 years later when everyone and their brother is driving a water powered car, you come out and say "ok, now you all owe me 10%". It's ridiculous, and criminal.
    • Re:Patent Priveleges (Score:2, Informative)

      by Todd Knarr ( 15451 )

      That's already there. The law on patents is that if you don't act to enforce the patent for a sufficient period of time, the patent becomes unenforceable. The problem is, you still have to let the patent-holder take you to court and have the judge rule that the patent hasn't been enforced and is unenforceable. What we need is a way to short-circuit that, a set of conditions that a user of a technology can satisfy that guarantee no case can be brought against them.

      • ahhh, I see, so basically, if interest A claims the patent, and has deep pockets, and interest B claims public knowledge, they must also have deep pockets to fund the necessary lawyers to prove that the patent hasn't been enforced and is unenforceable....

        yet another example of how bad it is to let the home team make the rules as you play the game...
      • What we need is a way to short-circuit that, a set of conditions that a user of a technology can satisfy that guarantee no case can be brought against them.

        That's bad. It's a violation of due process. No one is interested in due process when their doing the screwing. But, oh gosh, when someone is the victim of a good-old fashion railroading, listen to the squealing.

        Sorry, lawsuits are here to stay.
        • What Forgent's doing has little to do with due process, and much to do with ambush and highway robbery. I'd say conditions like these are appropriate:

          1. If a technology was outlined in an openly-published standard at the time the patent was granted, the patent is unenforceable against implementations of the standard.
          2. If the technology has been described in an openly-published and implemented standard, and that standard has been in use for at least 2 years without objections or other action by the patent-holder against the standard or the implementations, the patent is unenforceable against implementations of that standard.
          That would scuttle claims like Forgent's without harming people who held patents before a standard was published and who raised objections promptly.
          • Right, everything you say makes sense, except that it will take a lawsuit to establish the parameters you set out are in fact true.

            For example "openly-published", "technology", "Described", "implemented", "standard", "without objects" etc. They all have to be heard and decided upon by a judge.

            This is why we have a judiciary. One party makes a claim - in this case about patents. Another party is or would be victimized by the claim. Original parties claim is bogus. But a judge (or jury) must make that determination.

            Elsewise we don't have a judicial system.
      • Re:Patent Priveleges (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Quarters ( 18322 )
        That's already there. The law on patents is that if you don't act to enforce the patent for a sufficient period of time, the patent becomes unenforceable.
        No, that's trademark law. Patents are viable until the prescribed date they become invalid. The lifespan of a patent differes depending on the type of patent it is.

        If what you are saying is true then there could be no such thing as "submarine" or "submerged" patents, which is what is going on here. The patent is 17 years old and just now Forgent (new owners of said patent) are wanting royalties from everyone using it. This tactic is being used more frequently by businesses (see any article on the RAMBUS debacle).

        Patents do not become invalid due to lack of enforcement. Patent holders don't have to do anything to protect their patents. By law it is 100% the responsibility of inventors to make sure their inventions are not infringing on other's patents. All the patent holder has to do is look for infringements and either work out a licensing agreement with the offender or sue them.

        I'm not advocating the system, as I personally feel the trademark law of owner-enforcement requirements to be much better. I'm just pointing out that your statement isn't correct.
  • Unfortunatly not being a lawyer i don't know the name or such, but the idea is that if you allow people to use part of your property as a pathway for a certain amount of time (five years? ten?) without any attempt to stop them, you then lose the right to stop them at a later date.

    You don't actually have to be successful at stoping them, you can even just put up a sign that says "no trespassing" and that will maintain your right to introduce more stringent enforcement later.

    A similar law but badly implemented law (at least i presume the same law doesn't cover both cases) is what results in authors habitually telling fans "no" when they ask about doing fanfiction, even if the author doesn't mind that particular person writing that particular fanfic. Allowing some fans to write fanfiction can (stupidly) cause them to lose some legal control over their work.

    The ideal behind both being that you should not be able to "fool" the public (either intentionally or unintentionally) into believing they have free right to something, and then suddenly start restricting or charging them once the object in question has been taken for granted/come into standard use/whatever is appropriate for the object in question.

    I would think that this is exactly the situation such laws were trying to prevent, and i wonder if any of them apply.

  • by stinkydog ( 191778 ) <> on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @03:25PM (#3939263) Homepage
    Coding system for reducing patent redundancy

    The present invention relates to methods and apparatus for processing patents to remove redundant information thereby making the patents more suitable for transfer and storage through a limited-bandwidth medium. The present invention specifically relates to methods and apparatus useful in intellectual property systems. Typically, the system determines differences between the current input patents and the previous input patents using mean-square difference of the patents. These mean-square of the patents are processed and compared with one or more thresholds of redundency for determining one of several modes of operation. After processing in some mode, the sucessfully processed patents are in the form of digital numbers and these digital numbers are coded, using ordered redundancy coding, and stored in the database.

  • The logo on the JPEG homepage [] is actually a gif.
  • ...that 10 months after Gordon Matthews is desginated to "mine" the company's patent portfolio, finds the JPEG patenent and then he turns up dead?


    Gordon Matthews dies []
  • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @03:30PM (#3939299)
    I think Forgent better be very careful about trying to enforce its so-called patents on the JPEG compression standard.

    They run the risk of running afoul of US antitrust laws. In the famous US v. United Shoe Manufacturing Company case (1941), the courts ruled that patents cannot be used to stifle competition--of which the Forgent patent may just do. This is the same issue that resulted in Rambus running afoul of the law because Rambus was using its patents on DDR-SDRAM to stifle DDR-SDRAM in favor of RDRAM technology.
  • The date is July 11th 1992. The GNU people are once again safe from patent law... gzip has saved the LZW-hampered compress from kneeing the GNU project in the other groin.

    RMS is still not relaxed however. He knows the Achilles heel of his plan to free the hearts and minds of all thinking beings in the world is patents. Restlessly, he searches for an answer, but as yet, it has eluded him. Later that day, one of his minions shows up and senses something is on his master's mind.

    Minion0: What is wrong, master? Has someone threatened freedom again?
    RMS: Rest easy young minion. Today, at least the battle has been won, but I fear the war may still be lost.
    Minion0: You can't mean...
    RMS: No, no, my facade as a badly-dressed over-zealous hippie will not be breeched. Be assured that it is inconcievable for anyone to see past my BO.
    Minion0: Phew. But yet, I sense something's amiss.
    RMS: Patents may yet be our downfall. The dark forces has threatened us before with them, and soon they will again.
    Minion0: But, cannot we impress upon the minds of our leaders the importance of this?
    RMS: Alas, in that respect our actions will be in vain. Our only chance lies with being more wise than them.
    Minion0: I was worried there for a moment... here, let me get the champagne!
    RMS: Perhaps it is good that we rejoice in our small victory. But the lull will not last and yet...
    Minion0: And yet?
    RMS: The time is not yet ripe. Rest assured, this patent war, we shall win!

    And so, after a brief victory celebration, the GNU people return to their secret identities of coders who are brilliant, yet in need of basic hygiene.

    Yet RMS continues to plan, in the dark and twisting corners of his mind. ...

    We rejoin RMS on April 1 2001, in the boardroom of a relatively unknown company named VTEL. The board members of this struggling company wonder what the darkly dressed stranger has to say.

    RMS: My plan is nearly complete. One this is done, you will not only have saved freedom from certain doom, but have struck a terrible blow at the very heart of the dark forces opposing us.
    Boardmember0: But, would this not cause us to become unpopular and even shunned by our families?
    Boardmember1: And what if there are complications?
    RMS: All of the above has been taken care off... My ... minion ... here, will pose as a new board member. After the deed is done, he will fake his own death, and in the resulting chaos, all blame will be passed on to him.
    Minion0: Naturally, you will never see me or RMS again after this meeting.
    RMS: And so, we have prepared new identities in any country of your choice for you and your loved ones. We chose your company because it would make the least impact on your social lives.
    Boardmember0: But this name change? Would it not raise questions to the observer?
    RMS: Only to those who are free from the dark influences. Fortunately for us, our counterparts are oft blinded by the smell of money...

    And so, we reach our present day. The dominoes of fate are all in place, and we can only hope that freedom will prevail!
  • Just Say No (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Aging_Newbie ( 16932 )
    If nobody gives in to their frivolous lawsuits then the patent is likely to be less defensible than if somebody does give in. Similar things happened for windowing in Y2K as well as many algorithms of wrapping around the century and finding dates in code. The bad news is that if a bunch of people pay these folks to go away then it helps validate their position and everybody could have to pay. Just my .02 worth...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This jpeg patent deal is like a storm. Sure it makes a hell of a mess but, when it's over, the world is fresh and new.

    All you open-source types should realize the value of Forgent doing this!

    This will pave the way for more mainstream people saying, "Hey! Wait a minute! I'm not going to get caught with my pants down again! You know, 'Fool me once...' So I'M switching to open-source software with appropriate licensing to guarantee that these scoundrels can't screw me again!"

    In other words, situations like this and with Microsoft claiming patent rights on OpenGL will only encourage people to stay away from propriety, corporate-sponsored software and move to open, community-sponsored software that much faster!

    Hip hip hooray for Forgent! They're scheming slimy dirtballs but sometimes those people, in their greed and lust for power and money, accidentally do something that'll just screw their own kind in the long run.
  • Someone else may have published this but this would force people towards a better overall standard.

    Also isn't there an open JPEG2000 standard coming out soon?
  • From the PDF:

    Oct. 6, 1987: The US Patent Office awards San Jose, Calif.-based Compression Labs Inc. a patent for a technology that simplifies coding for digital images.

    This is the best explaination I have found for Forgent's patent. It seems to me to cover any lossy image compression. Including DVD.

    I would be interested in seeing if Hollywood grabs the ankles for these bottom feeders. We'll know how confident Forgent is in thier claims by seeing who they go after for money. If the shake down starts with small companies and open source, we'll know these guys have no confidence in the patent.
  • by Mr Slushy ( 220285 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @03:48PM (#3939444)
    Unisys will sue Forgent for not paying any royalties on the software used to generate the 42 gif images on their webpage [].

    While that is going on. Forgent will sue Unisys for not paying any royalties on the .JPG image on their webpage [] ( content/main_photo_homepage.jpg)

    When the lawyers have taken all of their money, both of them will declare bankruptcy and go out of business.

  • I wonder what image format GNU.ORG [] will use on it's website, now...
  • Do they do anything besides extort for patents?

    Does anybody know anybody who has contracts with Forgent? Does anybody have influence over that? If so, they need to be dropped.

    The governments are slow to respond. This patent nonsense is ridiculous. What needs to start happening is "takedowns". A company like Forgent comes out of nowhere and demands royalty payments on something which has been in widespread use for a very long time on the assumption it was not so legally encumbered. This company never even contributed to the algorithm in the first place, so the argument that it's "fair recompence for fair work" is obviously bogus; it's nothing more than extortion which is legal under laws that are out of date. That company then needs to get spanked, and hard, and pubically. They need to suffer bigtime for their arrogance and their mistake. Everybody else needs to see them suffer, so that they will think twice before trying the same bullshit trick.

    Anybody who is giving money to Forgent now needs to stop. Companies and individuals, or whoever Forgent currently makes money off, needs to boycott them, cancel their contracts. Forgent needs to go out of business, and it needs to be public and messy. We can't sit back and take it every time some piss-ant little technology-wannabe firm (a category in which I'd include Unisys nowadays) comes forward and starts claiming violation of "their" intellectual property. Somebody somehow has got to start putting these people in their place.

    These parasites on society create nothing but grief; they do all sorts of damage to the community at large, getting rich themselves. It's no better than the behavior of the execs at Enron, it just happens to be legal. The system needs to be reformed; I wish our government would see their way through to doing that, but I don't have much hope. (Hell, our government is too busy going in the other direction with things like the DMCA, TIPS, and everything else that makes us so happy.).

  • by $criptah ( 467422 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @04:14PM (#3939666) Homepage

    Sometimes I don't get our economy. Although I understand that companies want to make money and profit from their products or services, I don't get why some companies are at the public's throat most of the time. Don't the executives get that by making the public angry they're not doing any good to the company's reputation? Do they really expect me to buy anything that involves a JPEG algorithm after a scandal that they put on? If everybody starts pushing for patents and enourmous fees nobody will be willing to do any business, because nobody wants to be sued. I have nothing against patens, they're cool, they can profit an inventor to a reasonable degree and benefit the public at the same time. The companies that hold patents, should be proud of them and open them up to the public, after all that everybody will benefit from whatever they invent and chances are that they're going to make more money than buy suing each other.
  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Tuesday July 23, 2002 @08:04PM (#3941175)
    There seems to be a lot of misunderstandings around this issue, so someone should put out a timeline and other information. I also can not resist drawing some conclusions.

    1986 - Patent filed, Oct 27, Compression Labs, Inc., San Jose, CA
    1987 - Patent granted, Oct 6
    1992 - JPEG standardized ITU-T Rec. T.81 (1992)
    1994 - JPEG standardized ISO/IEC 10918-1:1994
    1994 - GATT ammended ("Ururguay Round"), Dec 9
    1995 - GATT changes to U.S. patent law go into effect, Jun 7
    1997 - Patent acquired by Forgent Networks
    2002 - Patent enforced by Forgent Networks

    People have criticised Forgent Networks for not speaking up about the patent during participation in ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1, Sub Committee 29, Working Group 1. In fact, Forgent did not have the patent at the time.

    The patent was granted prior to the GATT-mandated U.S. patent law changes to eliminate submerged patents. Thus the term of the patent is 17 years; therefore the patent expires on Oct 6, 2004, not "in 2006, 20 years from the filing date", as people have been claiming.

    It is not the proper role of the ISO to take up a legal battle against patents.

    Forgent was probably unaware of the patent at the time of its participation in the JPEG working group.

    Prosecuting the patent after allowing the continued existance for 5 years of an international standard based on the patent is likely a violation of the RICO statutes.

    Specifically, USC Title 18, Part I, Chapter 96, Section 1961(1)(A) and 1961(1)(B), "Extortion".

    The definition of "Extortion in this case is from USC Title 18, Part I, Chapter 95, Section 1951(b)(2); specifically:
    The term ''extortion'' means the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.
    (emphasis mine).

    It seems pretty clear to me that this falls into the same category as the civil application of RICO to the RAMBUS patents, and to similar recent cases.

    So, IMO, rather than expecting the ISO to get into the act, it's more likely time to involve your local Federal prosecutor, instead.

    -- Terry
  • The scary thing... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by plaa ( 29967 ) <sampo DOT niskanen AT iki DOT fi> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @06:19AM (#3943185) Homepage
    The patent is 17 years old, and only now is it put in use. Think how many patents are given to software nowadays. According to the article, in Japan there are 4,000 patents on image and wavelet technology alone. Think of what will happen in 15 years, when companies start bringing out all-but-forgotten patents on everyday algorithms from the good ol' dot-com days... The devastation will be much, much larger...

Don't steal; thou'lt never thus compete successfully in business. Cheat. -- Ambrose Bierce