One of the more infamous patent problem situations has been Forgent's claim with a patent that they say covers JPEG image compression. This was a perfect example of a company that clearly had done nothing to help bring about JPEG image compression. The company had found a random patent they had bought from another company, and then retroactively figured it applied to JPEGs. Even the company admits that this patent was a lucky "lottery ticket" to riches -- which is not what the patent system is supposed to encourage at all. Still that didn't stop them from going around suing companies and pressuring others to pay for a license they probably didn't need. Last year, a group found some prior art on the patent, and convinced the USPTO to review it. Today comes the news that the patent office has done an initial rejection of some of the broad claims at the heart of the patent. Forgent still gets the chance to respond, and this process is far from over. However, the interesting part is that the examiners believe the original patent filers knew of the specific prior art, and did not disclose it to the USPTO as required. It's yet another argument for having a better system for helping the USPTO understand the prior art and obviousness of a patent before the patent has been issued and can be used to divert money from actual research and innovation to legal fights.
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