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Patent claim could spell end of JPEG standard.

A software maker in Texas recently said it owned--and had begun enforcing--a patent for part of the JPEG digital image compression standard, writes NewsFactor. Forgent Networks, Austin, Texas, reports multimillion-dollar licensing settlements with Sony and another unidentified "prestigious international company" in its June quarterly SEC filing, but did not provide details of the patent being licensed. The company later clarified the patent is for JPEG data compression. One of the most popular graphics compression methods used on the Internet and by digital cameras, JPEG was previously regarded as an open source standard. Forgent says the patent was issued in 1987 to Compression Labs Inc., now a Forgent subsidiary. Forgent was not aware of the patent's licensing potential until April 2001, when it began approaching hardware vendors and trying to negotiate licensing agreements, the report says. But Forgent may not be able to maintain its patent claim. The Joint Photographic Experts Group, an international committee that devised ISO/IEC 10918-1 (the JPEG standard), responded to Forgent's announcement by saying it believes the compression technology may have been in use prior to the date of Forgent's patent. The group plans to launch a website this fall to serve as a repository of "prior art," or examples of the use of the standard predating Forgent's claim. Valid or not, Forgent's claim might go unchallenged because of the high cost of litigation. Such an outcome could end the JPEG standard, NewsFactor writes.

The trouble may not end with Forgent, though. The JPEG committee says other groups, such as Philips and Lucent, "also may be claiming some elements of intellectual property that might be applied to the original JPEG and JBIG standards."
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Publication:Digital Imaging Digest
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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