JPEG Patent Under the Spotlight

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has confirmed that it will re-examine a patent which covers the ‘compression, manipulation and transmission of JPEG images. he recent announcement stems from the campaign group Public Patent Foundation’s (PUBPAT) argument that the patent was originally invalid due to existing prior art.

 The USPTO after considering PUBPAT’s request found that it had raised “a substantial new question of patentability” concerning each and every claim of Patent Number 4,698,672.

 The JPEG patent was originally filed by Compression Labs Inc (CLI) who applied for the patent in 1986, surprisingly the company never asked for royalties. However Forgent Networks subsequently acquired CLI and in 2002 and announced that it would be seeking royalties stemming from use of the JPEG patent.

 JPEG, the “Joint Photographic Experts Group” comprises experts found by national standards bodies and major companies who work together in order to produce standards for continuous tone image coding.

 The obvious standard which comes to mind is JPEG IS0918-1 which is one of the first standards for still image compression. Of course most of the features found in this standard are what people associate with JPEG. And it is these features which Forgent is claiming a patent right. Â

According to reports, the company has licensed the product to nearly 50 different companies and is involved in litigation with up to 30 more. Forgent has pointed out that it has generated nearly $105 million in revenue, mainly down to the contented patent.

PUBPAT’s Executive Director, Dan Ravicher was reported to have said:Â

“We are extremely pleased with the Patent Office’s decision to grant our request to re-examine the patent Forgent Networks is using to threaten the JPEG standard. This is the first step towards ending the harm being caused to the public by Forgent Networks’ aggressive assertion of the patent, which would never have been issued by the Patent Office if they had known of the prior art that we submitted as part of our re-examination request.” Â

However, Richard Snyder, chairman and CEO of Forgent predicted that the Patent Office would find the patent valid. He said:

“We began investigating the ‘672 Patent in 2001 and have spent more than three years enforcing our property rights. We have not found any convincing arguments of invalidity, including the recent claims, and as a result we are confident in the patent, and look forward to an efficient re-examination.”Â

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