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.