Forbes Paints JPEG Patent Holder As A Victim

from the oh-those-poor-patent-attorneys dept

You may recall the highly questionable "JPEG patent" that was used to threaten the Troll Tracker a few months ago. It's a patent that's been in dispute for quite some time, and has been used by its holder against a random assortment of companies. While every claim in the patent, but one, has been rejected, it's still being used to go after a variety of companies that display any JPEG images on their websites. Luckily, the USPTO has agreed to re-examine the patent yet again, but that isn't halting the various lawsuits already in progress -- which include a rather ridiculous ploy of going for the sympathy vote by playing up how the original inventors are old and "feeble."

Forbes is now running an article about the history of this patent, though, oddly, they seem to take it at face value that the patent is obviously valid and that everyone who has a JPEG image should pay up. In fact, the article suggests that the patent holder (a patent attorney who got the rights from the "old and feeble" inventors) may be cheated out of the money he's owed by all these unfortunate re-examinations. Forbes doesn't seem to have any problem with someone who is doing absolutely nothing productive, yet can get a steady stream of money for a patent that really has nothing to do with JPEG images, but was merely applied to JPEGs after the fact. And, of course, Forbes seems to ignore that this is hardly the only such case. Remember, it was just a few years ago that another company, Forgent, claimed it had the patents on JPEG images and everyone owed it money. There's a serious problem here, and Forbes coverage, portraying the patent attorney who has the rights to this patent as a victim is doing a real disservice to those who are actually trying to innovate.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    tedivm, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 1:57am

    Considering that Forbes has numerous jpegs on their site, I'm wondering why, if they think this guy is getting such a bad deal, they haven't paid for the fees that they currently 'owe'.

     

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  2.  
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    Brian, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 3:22am

    I never even knew JPEG had a Patent you learn something new everyday, nice post.

    - Britec - www.britec.co.uk

     

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  3.  
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    Ferin, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 4:54am

    The problem is obvious

    Forbe's audience is usual management and leadership personnel within a company, so of course they're going to paint someone who does nothing and wants money for it as a sympathetic victim.

     

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  4.  
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    ehrichweiss, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 5:13am

    cue...

    ...the Forbes/patent shill guy in...

    3
    2
    1

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    waiting, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 5:44am

    Re: cue...

    what, no angry dude here to denounce the evilites who don't compensate patent holders?

     

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  6.  
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    Albert Anystain, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 7:08am

    Shouldn't this be moot? The questionable jpeg patent was granted in 1993. Wouldn't it have expired in 2007? Or was this a 20 year patent?

     

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  7.  
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    Jim Burnett, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 7:31am

    Victim, my arse! :-)q

    The solution is the PNG file format, and you should start using it. The PNG format is free and it is open source, plus, almost every major graphics design software supports it. Gimp, Photoshop, you name it, they support PNG. JPEG Paten Info

     

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  8.  
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    eleete, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 7:52am

    The classic Troll Booth

    I bet the attorney who now holds the patent, has no clue about digital or analog images. Like the writer above points out, If he's that much of a 'starving inventor' let Forbes be the first to pony up the excessive fees. This is the classic case of a patent that should not have been granted (I'm sure there is plenty of prior art in the analog world) that seems to say society should pay people with Zero creativity, ingenuity, and of course products, that the USPTO gives Monopoly a pass to.

    If you think this issue stops at web sites, take a look at your cell phone, digital camera, DVD player... the list is very broad and deep (though the USPTO must not have had the braille to read through that). If ANYONE believes that this person has the right to set up a toll booth now, let those be the first to fill out their checkbook registers.

    I think it's a horrible tax on the truly creative and innovative, and a slap in the face to the argument that patents cultivate innovation... they cultivate financially destructive legal wars. I'm sure the prospect of Climate Change has many clamoring for a solution, but has anyone calculated the toll of trolls on this horrid economy ??

    e

     

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  9.  
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    dan, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 8:18am

    Bet the lawer works for either the RIAA or MS

    nt

     

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  10.  
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    Slick Willy, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 8:30am

    Another blunder? They should publish from the moon

    cause they sure as hell dont live on earth, lol

    people who think they know everything already do not check facts like regular, hard-working, humble, every-day folks, ha ha

    if this foolish attorney wants to waste tax payer money in the courts for such a lame and greedy scheme he must be crooked!

    someone should patent greed and tell him he has to pay royalties to be soo greedy

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    eleete, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 9:14am

    Re: Another blunder? They should publish from the moon

    Unfortunately, the system encourages this type of behavior. The courts make money on filing fees, the attorneys make money fighting the battle, and people using obvious technology pay the big price. This will continue until something is done at the award level, granting patents only in extreme cases where it is warranted. Certainly someone can see that this is impeding innovation, but there is so much money to be made. After all, who imposes the laws? Former attorneys. The true winners in all this mess.

    e

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    eleete, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 9:31am

    Re: Re: Another blunder? They should publish from the moon

    The most telling line in the article is "While every claim in the patent, but one, has been rejected, it's still being used to go after a variety of companies that display any JPEG images on their websites."

    So a patent with all but one claim rejected Still creates a Troll Bridge and chills innovation, Not to mention allows a person who never invented a thing to (after ALL these years) sue into oblivion, users of a technology that has become a de facto standard. No statute of limitations, no inspection on the result to the market. Here's this weak patent award that has since been dwindled down to one single claim, and the law suits start flying (filing)... Seems unAmerican, and "harmful to market consumers" to me.

    e

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 10:21am

    what if they have a .jpg instead of .jpeg, will this make them exempt?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    DanC, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 4:38pm

    Re:

    Nope...the overly generic patent covers the basic process of requesting and downloading a remote compressed image file and displaying it. So any non-raw image displayed on a website is supposedly violating this patent, including gif, jpeg, png, etc.

    In essence, what the patent describes is nothing more than the simple process of double-clicking on a picture file to open it in a viewer application moved onto the internet. Request, response, display. Nothing novel or new about it.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 5:29pm

    Only PHBs read forbes

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Willton, Apr 23rd, 2008 @ 8:17pm

    Re: Re:

    In essence, what the patent describes is nothing more than the simple process of double-clicking on a picture file to open it in a viewer application moved onto the internet. Request, response, display. Nothing novel or new about it.

    Perhaps now, but probably not back in 1991, when it was filed. I'm willing to bet that it was pretty darn new back then.

     

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  17.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 24th, 2008 @ 1:11am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Perhaps now, but probably not back in 1991, when it was filed. I'm willing to bet that it was pretty darn new back then.

    Then you know rather little about computing history...

    But, either way, let's take what you have to say at face value and assume that this was a new and novel idea that deserved a 20 year monopoly.

    Think through what that would have meant for the last 20 years of development in computing and the internet if every time someone offered the ability to click on a picture file to display it, they would have had to pay up a license? Do you see how development of the internet would have been tragically slowed down? Do you see how such a use of this patent clearly would be hindering, rather than promoting, the progress?

    Or are you such a fan of patents that you don't believe that's possible.

     

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  18.  
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    stv, Apr 24th, 2008 @ 4:27am

    questionable patent

    your definition of "questionable patent"...someone else's

     

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  19.  
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    Willton, Apr 24th, 2008 @ 5:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Think through what that would have meant for the last 20 years of development in computing and the internet if every time someone offered the ability to click on a picture file to display it, they would have had to pay up a license? Do you see how development of the internet would have been tragically slowed down? Do you see how such a use of this patent clearly would be hindering, rather than promoting, the progress?

    Think about the amount of new information one has to disclose when applying for the patent. Don't you think that, if this person had not gotten the patent, this information would have gotten into the public's hands a lot later? Or are you so anti-patent that you don't understand the benefits of the quid pro quo for getting one?

     

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  20.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 24th, 2008 @ 10:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Think about the amount of new information one has to disclose when applying for the patent. Don't you think that, if this person had not gotten the patent, this information would have gotten into the public's hands a lot later? Or are you so anti-patent that you don't understand the benefits of the quid pro quo for getting one?

    Can you seriously read the details of this patent and think that idea wouldn't have been figured out by someone else within the time frame?

    Do you *honestly* (this is a serious question) think that the idea presented in this patent only came about because of this patent -- and that everyone else who came up with a similar idea got it from this patent?

    If you honestly believe that is the case, then you really ought to get out more.

    The "disclosure" aspect of patents is a myth. So many patents these days reveal next to nothing, and if it was really so "valuable" they'd keep it as a trade secret. The only reason to get a patent is if you *know* that the concepts will hit the public before the expiration of the patent.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Willton, Apr 24th, 2008 @ 1:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Can you seriously read the details of this patent and think that idea wouldn't have been figured out by someone else within the time frame?

    Do you *honestly* (this is a serious question) think that the idea presented in this patent only came about because of this patent -- and that everyone else who came up with a similar idea got it from this patent?


    No, I think that the information in this patent only came out as soon as it did because of the patent system. Without the patent, the dissemination of this information would have taken longer, as it would likely have been kept as a trade secret.

    The "disclosure" aspect of patents is a myth. So many patents these days reveal next to nothing, and if it was really so "valuable" they'd keep it as a trade secret. The only reason to get a patent is if you *know* that the concepts will hit the public before the expiration of the patent.

    Disclosure is a myth? If you truly believe this, then you need to get out of your ivory tower more. Why don't you try asking the folks who actually purchase licenses to practice the patented technology?

    Have you ever seriously read a patent? Or do you only read the claims? Try reading the detailed description of a patent. A patent's written description is usually pretty lengthy and technically detailed.

    While a patent may not be able to teach you or I how to make or use the invention, we are not the audience of patents; skilled practitioners in the art are. And that is the quid pro quo of granting the exclusionary right: the patent must enable one skilled in the relevant art how to make and use the invention without undue experimentation. That's why a patent must be so heavily detailed: if the patent is not enabling, then it is not valid.

    Keeping inventions as trade secrets is nothing new. Many people keep patentable technologies as trade secrets. But there is an inherent danger in doing so: if a later inventor decides to patent the technology that you decided to keep secret, then you lose your right to legally practice your secret technology. Why is that so? Because by keeping an invention secret, you are not contributing to the public knowledge. Public policy frowns upon that behavior.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    DanC, Apr 25th, 2008 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You seem to be missing the fact that all the 16 original claims of this patent were rejected upon reexamination by the patent office due to prior art.

    A company called TechSearch (aka Global Patent Holdings) tacked on an additional 92 claims in a sad attempt to keep their bad investment alive. One of these claims is that the original patent covers "asymmetric decompression techniques."

    So your assertion that the patent was "pretty darn new back then" is easily dismissed by the rejections due to prior art. The additional claims TechSearch added were easy to justify, as the overall generic nature of the original patent can be construed to cover a variety of technologies.

    if a later inventor decides to patent the technology that you decided to keep secret, then you lose your right to legally practice your secret technology. Why is that so?

    We operate on a first to invent system, not a first to file, so you can keep using your technology. What you are prevented from doing is filing lawsuits against those who managed to develop the same technology.

    It's quite simply a bad patent that Global Patent Holdings is attempting to use to cover a standard technology. When this claim is rejected, they'll undoubtedly file more continuations to try and cover something else they can sue over.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Willton, Apr 25th, 2008 @ 11:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You seem to be missing the fact that all the 16 original claims of this patent were rejected upon reexamination by the patent office due to prior art.

    A company called TechSearch (aka Global Patent Holdings) tacked on an additional 92 claims in a sad attempt to keep their bad investment alive. One of these claims is that the original patent covers "asymmetric decompression techniques."

    So your assertion that the patent was "pretty darn new back then" is easily dismissed by the rejections due to prior art. The additional claims TechSearch added were easy to justify, as the overall generic nature of the original patent can be construed to cover a variety of technologies.


    I did not know that. I was under the impression that the patent's one remaining valid claim was an original claim upon issue. That said, if all 16 original claims were invalidated and the patent holder decided to add new claims to limit the scope of the patent even further, and those specific claims were not anticipated or obvious in March of 1991, as long as the original patent's specification still enables one skilled in the art at the time the patent was issued to practice the claimed invention, I don't see a problem with that.

    We operate on a first to invent system, not a first to file, so you can keep using your technology. What you are prevented from doing is filing lawsuits against those who managed to develop the same technology.

    Incorrect. Yes, our patent system is a first-to-invent system, but our patent system does not have an "independent invention" defense to patent infringement. So even if you were the first to invent something, if you "abandoned, suppressed, or concealed" the invention (i.e. kept it secret), you cannot claim priority over the patent holder's invention, and thus lose your right to practice that invention without the patent holder's permission. See 35 U.S.C. Section 102(g). Thus, there's a strong incentive to NOT keep an invention secret, whether you want to patent it or not.

    It's quite simply a bad patent that Global Patent Holdings is attempting to use to cover a standard technology. When this claim is rejected, they'll undoubtedly file more continuations to try and cover something else they can sue over.

    If that does happen, then the patent holder should be officially SOL. This patent claims a filing date of March of 1991. Patents at that time only had a lifespan of 17 years. It's past March of 2008; the invention is now officially in the public domain.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    DanC, Apr 27th, 2008 @ 12:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Thus, there's a strong incentive to NOT keep an invention secret, whether you want to patent it or not.

    I had missed that point. I was under the impression that as long as concrete proof of prior invention was available, an infringement lawsuit would fail. So I concede this point; you are correct on the concealed inventions issue.

    those specific claims were not anticipated or obvious in March of 1991, as long as the original patent's specification still enables one skilled in the art at the time the patent was issued to practice the claimed invention, I don't see a problem with that.

    It isn't a problem when the patent in question is a good, valid patent. If the original patent is overly broad, it allows patent abusers like GPH to throw claims against a wall to see if they can make any of them stick. In my opinion, if all the original claims of a patent are rejected, we're dealing with a bad patent that should not have been granted.

    It's past March of 2008; the invention is now officially in the public domain.

    If only that were true...prior to 1995, you get either 17 years from the issue date or 20 years from the original filing date, whichever is longer. The filing date was in 1991, the issue date in 1993. So this patent doesn't officially die until 2011, which gives GPH plenty of time to file additional claims when their current claim is rejected.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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