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Forgent Settles JPEG Patent Cases 167

Posted by Zonk
from the why-can't-i-think-of-scams-like-this dept.
eldavojohn writes "As many of you know, the JPEG image compression is actually proprietary. This has resulted in many lawsuits between its owner, Forgent Networks, and other companies that have used it. Yesterday Microsoft and about 60 other defendants settled with Forgent to the tune of $8 million. For a company with annual revenues of $15 million, that's nothing to sneeze at. You haven't heard the last of Forgent yet, as the article states, 'It is currently pursuing claims against cable companies over a patent that it says covers technology inside digital video recorders.' Sounds like that one could be worth a little bit of cash, wouldn't you think?"
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Forgent Settles JPEG Patent Cases

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  • by icebike (68054) * on Thursday November 02, 2006 @08:02PM (#16697331)
    JPEG patent expired last month, so unless you were sued before, you are safe now.
    The patent was previously ruled to only cover video anyway.

    • 1-2-3-4 (Score:3, Funny)

      by StCredZero (169093)
      It's the American way.

      1) Invent a good compression algorithm and patent it
      2) Make sure everyone implements it and puts in into their products
      3) Sue!
      4) Profit

      Now we know what to put in place of the ???
    • PUBPAT has a different spin [pubpat.org] on this story, touting how Forgent has dropped all claims on the patent as a result of a successful challenge brought a year ago by PUBPAT resulting in the patent office rejecting the broadest claims last May. However, the details of the patent show that it was issued in 1987 [pubpat.org], which would mean that it expires sometime in 2007. So Forgent just settled for a final $8 million to cap off the total $110 million in revenue [corporate-ir.net] they have grabbed during the 10 years since they bought the co
      • by icebike (68054) *
        You need to read the PUBPAT more carefully. It has expired last month.

        This will all be moot when the patent expires on Oct. 27, 2006 (20 years after filing). The patent was already granted more than 17 years ago.
    • This kind of patent nonsense is primarily good only for developing countries. Places where people don't pay much attention and even less money to the rich corporations that claim to own technology.
      If the patent isn't enforced then the people who aren't paying millions of dollars to use technology that is in general usage are better off relatively to those companies in the wealthy countries that are exposed to patent lawsuits (on common everyday technology).
      This just encourages patent
    • ’672 has expired, but the patent owner has 6 years to file a suit. All they need to do to prove their case is that the violation occurred before the patent expired. They don't have to sue before the patent expires--they have 6 years to do that.
  • by jpellino (202698) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @08:03PM (#16697353)
    Proprietary software is for capitalist pigs!
    It's just the man trying to keep us down!
    Information wants to be free!
    That's it. I'm dumping every jpeg and disabling it on my brows....

    Huh. Where did everything go?
  • Isn't it funny.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday November 02, 2006 @08:05PM (#16697371) Homepage Journal
    The Gimp has no problem opening and saving JPEGs but every day I hear another excuse why Totem can't play WMV / Quicktime files. I guess the difference is that someone, who didn't give a shit about patents, actually bothered to make a JPEG library.. but no-one has sat down and done the same for WMV or Quicktime or the dozen other "proprietary codecs". Now ESR is talking about working with Linspire to make it easy for Linux users to download codecs, for a fee. They're talking about putting an icon on the desktop, the user double clicks on it, a windows pops up asking for their credit card details (or whatever payment system will fly in your locale) and the codecs are downloaded and installed with no user intervention necessary. This is a great step forward compared to the hoops you have to jump through to get (unlicensed) codecs installed on Linux at the moment, but isn't it a step backwards? Wouldn't it be better to take the JPEG/GIF approach: write our own library and just ignore these people who claim we must license their patent?
    • by AuMatar (183847)
      First off- Quicktime isn't a codec. Quicktime is basically a wrapper for any type of video encoding. So you'll never have a quicktime codec.

      Secondly- the problem with decoding WMV and the like isn't noone willing to say fuck the patents. Its a lack of documentation, requiring it to be reverse engineered. Video is enough of a pain in the ass when you have the decoding algorithm, reverse engineering take serious effort by people who know their stuff. So expect it to take a while.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by QuantumG (50515)
        Yes, true. It really does take effort to reverse engineer stuff, but that's the lot of those who care about interoperability. Ya gotta start somewhere. Samba wouldn't be here if people didn't at least try. Seems, these days, the only people doing reverse engineering for interoperability are the OpenBSD guys.
        • by AuMatar (183847)
          THis is a particularly hard thing to reverse. I can reverse engineer a data transfer and command format like Samba, given sufficient time. All you need to know is file systems and the kind of operations that make sense there. Reversing a video codec requires a lot of fairly high level math- a very sharp understanding of linear algebra and compression is only the begining. The problem is that there are very few people qualified to do so.
          • by Grishnakh (216268)
            Not only that, but there's an element of pragmatism here: is a workaround available?

            With Samba, there's no other easy way to interoperate with Windows since SMB/CIFS is the de facto data transfer standard used between Windows servers and clients. So without Samba, you simply can't use Linux servers in place of Windows file and print servers, and you can't connect to Windows file servers with Linux clients.

            WMV, however, doesn't have this problem. You just download the codec DLL files from a Hungarian site,
            • Can you explain something to me, my laptop came with a legal copy of xp home installed and the codecs i use. I choose to run ubuntu on this laptop assuming I am in the united states are the codecs illegal for me to use since I already got them licienced to me via Microsoft? What if I use them on another PC?

              • by Grishnakh (216268)
                IANAL, but there's probably something in the EULA that states you can't use the codecs separately from the OS or something to that effect. It's great, isn't it? Only now with computers and software can someone sell you something, and then tell you afterwards how you're allowed to use it.

                Regardless of whatever came on your computer before switching to Linux, I find the MPlayer win32 codec packs to be much more convenient as they contain all the Intel, MS, Real, and Sorenson (Quicktime) codecs you'll ever n
      • by Harik (4023)
        FFMpeg has reverse-engineered many of the proprietary codecs.

        intel indeo1,2,3,
        Sorenson Video V1 and V3 (Sorenson is what people think of as "Quicktime"),
        WMV1/2/3 (windows medial player 7/8/9) to an extent.
        RealVideo RV10/RV20 (Not 30/40 yet)

        Plus a crapload of others that I don't know how closed they are.

        Add that to mplayer's thunking of win32 DLL files to play propretary codecs, and I can
        play video more reliably and with less work on linux/opensource then in XP Media Center.
      • by evilviper (135110)
        Its a lack of documentation, requiring it to be reverse engineered.

        The VC-1 (almost identical to WMV3, aka.WMV9) reference implimentation has been available for over a year now, IIRC.

        So expect it to take a while.

        It's been done since a few months ago.
    • MPlayer (http://www.mplayerhq.hu/design7/news.html) will play both Quicktime and WMV files. It also has a Mozilla plugin that works very well. I haven't yet found any video on a website I haven't been able to play with it.
      • Yeah, but it uses the windows and quicktime dlls. The point still stands.

        Plus I don't think I can play every quicktime trailer, though windows no prob.
        • by zsazsa (141679)
          It doesn't anymore. ffmpeg, which MPlayer uses, has native decoders for the Sorenson codec, commonly used in Quicktime, and the WMV3 codec used in .WMV files.
        • by evilviper (135110)

          Yeah, but it uses the windows and quicktime dlls.

          Since 2003, MPlayer has had NATIVE codecs for Quicktime. That's when SVQ3 was added, and ever since, Quicktime has stuck to open codecs (MPEG-4, H.264) that were included in MPlayer before respective Quicktime versions were released.

          The latest "windows" WMV3/WMV9/VC-1 video codec was added in just the past few months, so it's native now as well.

          The point still stands.

          Thankfully, it doesn't.

          Plus I don't think I can play every quicktime trailer, though windows

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by realmolo (574068)
      The problem is, even if you were to reverse-engineer the Windows Media codecs, they have patents on the *algorithms themselves*. Which is the same issue with the JPEG patent. You can reverse-engineer it all you want, but if it actually WORKS, it's almost guaranteed to infringe on MS's patents.

      It's similar to the old Nintendo tactic from the NES days. The NES system checked each cartridge to see if it had a bit of copyrighted text (Yes, plain text. Not code.)that Nintendo inserted into every cartridge the
      • by QuantumG (50515)
        Yes, that's what I said, you have to just not care about patents. They can try to sue you as much as they like, but if the code is out there they can't go after everyone. Sure, the people with deep pockets like Microsoft have to care about patents, but the authors of The Gimp sure don't. You just put a warning in the license agreement on startup "Note: users are required by law to obtain licenses for patents covering all technology contained in this program before use." The users then promptly ignore th
    • How do they get away with releasing them for free on windows [free-codecs.com] then?

      • by QuantumG (50515)
        Exactly as I said, by not caring.
      • by evilviper (135110)

        How do they get away with releasing them for free on windows then?

        Well, first off, redistributing freely downloadable DLLs is, at worst, legally grey area... They aren't writing their own implimentations of patented codecs, they're just downloading those codecs from Apple, Microsoft, etc., etc., then packing them together and redistributing them.

        Second, it's because many countries don't allow patents on software. In the US, though, it would be completely illegal to write and distribute your own codec, wit

    • by curunir (98273) *
      The thing to remember when talking about JPEG files is that you're really not talking about JPEG. You're talking about JFIF (the file format) and not JPEG (the compression algorithm). JFIF, similar to what mp3 does for audio, only specifies how images are decoded, not how they are encoded. That means the encoding algorithm can differ between implementations with some performing better than others. From everything I've heard, the baseline JPEG compression (read: worst possible performance) has been paten
      • From everything I've heard, the baseline JPEG compression (read: worst possible performance) has been patent-free since the beginning.

        The Forgent patent allegedly covered part of baseline JPEG itself, including the fused Huffman encoding of nonzero coefficients with RLE coding of runs of zeroes in the zigzag.

        • by curunir (98273) *
          Thanks for the clarification. I had been trusting the information on this page [w3.org] to be accurate...glad I didn't actually go a head with implementing it.
    • The Gimp has no problem opening and saving JPEGs but every day I hear another excuse why Totem can't play WMV / Quicktime files.

      That's because the JPEG patent was a submarine patent that nobody even knew about until just a couple of years ago, when it was almost expired. Moreover, many if not most analysts doubt that the patent was valid in the first place. This is definitely not the case for most video codecs, which have been widely known to be covered by probably valid patents since day 1.

    • by Ilgaz (86384)
      Telestream Inc. shows it is possible to add WMV codec to Quicktime on OS X. In fact, my Quicktime also have .ogg and those open video support via codecs too. It also validates people's claims that Microsoft does use WMV Technology to drive people to their OS. Why? While Telestream is a great company and their codec works, it can't be a replacement for MS Wmedia Player for OS X update which will NEVER ship.

      There is open, documented and (only needing coders) MPEG-4 H264. It is already supported in some openso
      • by evilviper (135110)
        It also validates people's claims that Microsoft does use WMV Technology to drive people to their OS.

        Microsoft has made the WMV9 video codec public in the form of the VC-1 standard.

        The only thing Quicktime has over WMV is an open audio codec, and time (h.264 has been open much longer). ...the rest of your post is rather ranting and incomprehensible, so I'll have to leave it at that.
        • by Ilgaz (86384)
          Go to a Mac store, click one of the links (using a mac) at http://www.windowsmedia.com/mediaguide/radio [windowsmedia.com] , see if it plays. Go to Microsoft.com/mac, try to get Windows Media Player for OS X on that Intel based mac, it will install perfect raping all your browsers and system stability because it runs in Rosetta.

          WMV 9 is open because DVD Jon has cracked it big time, with a working demo back in 2004
          http://linux.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/11/26/ 0042252&from=rss [slashdot.org]

          Anything produced in Quicktime can be watch
          • by evilviper (135110)

            Go to Microsoft.com/mac, try to get Windows Media Player for OS X on that Intel based mac,

            This is a complete red herring, having NOTHING to do with the subject at hand.

            WMV 9 is open because DVD Jon has cracked it big time,

            That is ridiculously stupid. Jon wrote a bit of code to make VLC work with the (painfully slow) VC-1 reference decoder Microsoft released for the SMTPE standardization process. Nothing more. Others (Multimedia Mike) have done the same with ffmpeg as well. And, in the past few months,

    • by evilviper (135110)

      The Gimp has no problem opening and saving JPEGs but every day I hear another excuse why Totem can't play WMV / Quicktime files. I guess the difference is that someone, who didn't give a shit about patents, actually bothered to make a JPEG library..

      This is pure troll. libJPEG was made LONG before anyone claimed to hold any patents on the format (as was Lame, as was libGIF, as were many others).

      Video codecs are entirely different. It wasn't an open standard comittee that created WMV, it was Microsoft, and

    • some codecs are open, others are proprietary secrets.

      JPEG was intended to be open since its inception. The JPEG specification was developed by the International Standards Organisation (ISO). The full details of how to implement JPEG compression are explained in depth in the specification. Indeed, the reason the Forgent case is a scandal is because as part of the JPEG committee, they agreed not to enforce their patents against JPEG implementations. Also look at the GIF case. GIF became very popular despite L
  • Otherwise they will never take that system down and small developers will never have a chance (and oss will have a hard time). Patents must be abused against large companies. The bigger, the better. It shouldn't read 8 million but rather 800 million. That will be the day I will be smiling.

    They made it and they better eat up.
  • by bunions (970377) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @08:21PM (#16697591)
    There's not many of 'em.

    jpeg compression is nontrivial. The guy(s) that came up with it should be able to make a living off their hard work.
    • Yeah, I've heard that there are jpg images on the Internet.

      Imagine - just for a moment - that they got even a hundredth of a cent for each jpeg. They should be sitting around a pool drinking something cold and alcoholic like the mp3 guys.
    • jpeg compression is nontrivial. The guy(s) that came up with it should be able to make a living off their hard work.

      Except that Forgent did not participate in the JPEG standardization process and those who did wanted the format to be free from patent licenses [wikipedia.org]. Oh, and the USPTO declared most of Forgent's claims invalid earlier this year.
    • jpeg compression is nontrivial. The guy(s) that came up with it should be able to make a living off their hard work.

      While I do agree with you, it's kind of funny how the only reason it's really worth anything is because it's used so much. And the only reason it's used so much is because people used it without paying the license fee.

      Same can be said for gif and mp3... I recognize that that's no excuse, but it's kind of funny anyways. Had the patent been enforced from day zero, it wouldn't have nearly as much

    • by russotto (537200)
      JPEG compression is nontrivial. Forgent's patent on a particular twist of run-length-encoding is not.
    • Nontrivial yes, but it's arguable if the novelty rises to the level of something patentable. Compression algorithms based on energy-compressing transformations are nothing new, and JPEG was merely the first format to standardize a particular algorithm. The real hard work of JPEG was banging out a spec and agreeing on particulars like the exact layout of blocks, the exact values of quantization coefficients, etc. Very hard work I agree, but the basic idea which makes the whole thing work -- the idea of apply

    • jpeg compression is nontrivial. The guy(s) that came up with it should be able to make a living off their hard work.

      JPEG compression is trivial. Split the file into 8x8 blocks, line the pixels up diagonally and take the DCT. Divide each value of the DCT by a value from the quantization matrix (which forces high frequency information into small ranges), and then compress with a huffman tree. It's definitely more trivial than, say, vorbis or theora. It's not even the state of the art in image compression a
  • Being the owners of such an important patent and winning a nice settlement I assumed that Forgent must be a premier technology company providing important advances in technology and related products to our technology driven society, so I had a look at their website [forgent.com] and what did I find?

    "Our software division, NetSimplicity makes easy-to-use, scheduling software for any need -- scheduling rooms, resources and I.T. assets."

    WTF, they make scheduling software for meeting rooms?!? I think I smell patent troll.
  • Eldavajohn wrote:
    As many of you know, the JPEG image compression is actually proprietary
    Actually, it was only claimed to be proprietary. The patent office rejected most of the patent claims, and AFAIK Forgent did not successfully win any court cases that upheld the validity of the remaining claim(s). Settling out of court doesn't establish any legal presumption of validity.
  • by kuwan (443684) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @08:49PM (#16697949) Homepage
    The baseline JPEG format is not proprietary and is not owned by Forgent.

    What happened here is that Forgent sat on a patent while the JPEG format was drafted with the purpose of being open and patent-free. Compression Labs (which Forgent now owns) was a part of the JPEG committee and thus was required to disclose any patents that might deal with the format that the committee was developing. Compression Labs was silent on the matter and Forgent only decided to litigate their patent after many years of silence and after JPEG had become a standard. The patent is likely invalidated by priori art and Forgent is probably also barred by laches due to their delay in enforcing the patent.

    I'd rather that no one settle with them, but the reality is that settling is probably cheaper than litigating.
  • "The rank of your abnormal play you know eldavojohn, you write, the image compression of JPEG is monopoly really. This the owner, originated with Forgent network, and many lawsuits between the other company which uses that. Yesterday Microsoft and other defendant of approximately 60 Forgent solved in condition of the $8,000,000. With that for the company which has the annual earnings of the $15,000,000 doing sneeze is nothing. Cover technology in digital video recorder. ' Vis-a-vis the cable company on the
  • Wrong... (Score:5, Informative)

    by chill (34294) on Thursday November 02, 2006 @09:33PM (#16698379) Journal
    $8 million is plenty to sneeze at, considering it is a small fraction of what they were asking and had a 43% contingency deal with their lawyers.

    You forgot the best part, which tells why we won't be hearing from them again anytime soon:

    JPEG PATENT CLAIM SURRENDERED:
    Forgent Networks Ends Assertion of Patent Challenged by PUBPAT

    NEW YORK -- November 2, 2006 -- The Public Patent Foundation ("PUBPAT") announced today that Forgent Networks (Nasdaq: FORG) has stopped asserting its patent against the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) international standard for the electronic sharing of photo-quality images. PUBPAT successfully initiated a challenge to the patent last year and this week Forgent dropped all of its pending cases asserting the patent and stated that it would not file any other infringement claims based on the patent.

    Forgent Networks acquired the '672 Patent through the purchase of Compression Labs, Inc. in 1997 and began aggressively asserting it against the JPEG standard through lawsuits and the media in 2004. PUBPAT filed its challenge to the patent in November 2005 and the Patent Office rejected the patent's broadest claims in May of this year.

    "By completely ending its assertion of the '672 patent, Forgent has now finally admitted that the patent has no valid claim over the JPEG standard," said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT's Executive Director. "This utter capitulation by Forgent is long overdue, but a cause for public relief nonetheless."

    More information about the Forgent Networks patent formerly asserted against the JPEG standard, including a copy of the Patent Office's Office Action rejecting its broadest claims, can be found at http://www.pubpat.org/forgentjpeg.htm [pubpat.org].
  • Groklaw doesn't mention any of this when it reported that the JPEG patent had been surrendered by Forgent [groklaw.net]. Earlier this year, USPTO reversed their position and rejected the broadest of Forgent claims after the non-profit PubPat informed the USPTO of prior art that Forgent did not disclose in their application. PubPat also pointed out that Forgent knew about the prior art since one of the inventors of the prior art was one of the inventor on three of its patents.
  • Is there a patent-free alternative to JPEG like OGG is to MP3 or PNG is to GIF?
  • The post (and article) mentions a claim that they hold a patent to PVR technology; specifically "Computer controlled video system allowing playback during recording" according to their patent filing [uspto.gov]. The patent does seem to cover the appropriate technology... but what's this I see? A September 2001 date? Hmm... a quick Wikipedia search turns up references to the initial release of Tivo and ReplayTV back in 1999. I think what we have here is a clear case of prior art, so sorry Forgent... I think it's time to

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