Forgent Networks Sues 31 Companies Over JPEG Patent

Forgent Networks are claiming ownership for a patent filed in 1986 by Compression Labs – a dormant company acquired by Forgent in 1997

Forgent Networks are now suing, amongst others, JVC, Matsushita, Fuji Photo, Agfa, Dell, HP, Apple, Adobe … the list goes on.

The suddenly flurry of activity could be something to do with the fact that the patent was filed 18 years ago, and Forgent have less than two years to milk some revenue out of it. However, since the defendants have now been notified, Forgent can now take their time seeking damages, and they can claim damages all the way back to when the claim was issued.

Unisys and Compuserve began to seek royalites on their LZW compression algorithm in the late 90s as that patent neared its expiry. Hence, 20th June 2003 was known as “GIF Liberation Day” when the patent finally expired.

If these suits are successful, everyone will have to charge more for software that uses the JPEG format (i.e. Almost everything) or the file type will just be abandoned for something less controversial. This will suit Microsoft, as the PNG format will be most likely benefit.

We ran an April Fool on a company who claimed to own the patent for plain text in programs – but now we’ve seen this story, we rather wish we hadn’t.

Forgent Networks

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?