Judge Puts JPEG Patent On Ice

from the ray-niro's-gotta-wait dept

The infamous and questionable JPEG patent held by Global Patent Holdings (GPH) and used to threaten just about anyone online (including the Green Bay Packers, CDW, a resort in Florida and others) who happened to have a JPEG on their website has been put on hold for a while. While the folks behind it somehow got Forbes to write a puff piece making it sound like the patent holder was the victim, if you look at the details, it was clear that this was an abuse of the patent system. It was a questionable patent from the beginning, and an earlier review of the patent had every claim thrown out. However, during that process, the patent holder tried adding a ton of other claims -- one of which the USPTO actually allowed to go through. It's that single remaining claim that's being used to sue lots of folks. However, with the USPTO recently agreeing to re-examine that one claim, those being sued have asked the court to put all of the cases on hold until the re-exam is done. As we've pointed out, all too often, judges refuse to wait for the Patent Office to re-examine a patent -- which is a big problem, since so many re-exams result in rejected claims.

However, that's not the case here. Last week, the judge ruled that it made sense to stay the case until the re-exam was complete. GPH protested this move, noting that the patent had already been re-examined before, and that process took many years during which GPH couldn't enforce the patent. However, the court reasonably responded on a few different points. First, it noted that while the length of the re-exam last time was quite long, with only one claim it shouldn't take as long this time. Second, it pointed out that while it's true the patent was re-examined once before, since this claim is a new claim, it was not re-examined -- only examined. Finally, and most importantly, the court noted that if the courts had not waited, a bad decision likely would have resulted, as they would have had to assume the later rejected claims were valid.
"a significant amount of time and effort in claim construction and other litigation would have been wasted if we had forged ahead without the benefit of the PTO’s examination (and subsequent rejection) of those claims."
This should, effectively, keep GPH from filing any more suits on this patent until the USPTO has a chance to review the remaining claim. While other lawsuits can be filed, a quick pointer to this ruling should hopefully keep those cases from going anywhere until the USPTO has reviewed the patent. Oh, and by the way, the judge appears to not have been even remotely swayed by the totally unrelated fact that the original inventors of the patent were old and feeble, which GPH had used in trying to get a sympathy vote. It was so inconsequential the judge doesn't even mention it in the ruling.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Thane, Apr 30th, 2008 @ 9:08am

    Remaining Claim

    I've clicked through all the links for several layers and I can't find the "one remaining claim". What is it?

     

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

    •  
      identicon
      Dave, Apr 30th, 2008 @ 10:01am

      Re: Remaining Claim

      Reviewing the motion paper, it looks like the remaining claim revolves around the downloading of a picture through the compression at the server end (encoding) and the decoding of the picture at the receiver through the use of "asymmetrical processing power".

      As I don't actually understand what that means, I'll leave it up to you.

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    Tin Ear, Apr 30th, 2008 @ 9:29am

    Re: Remaining claim...

    At this point, does it matter? I think that upon re-examination, the whole thing will be moot. The image format is so pervasive that it would be impossible to enforce a patent on it in the manner that the company is attempting to use. Sue everyone with a JPEG on their website? Ridiculous. Demand money from every company that makes an image editor that can produce a jpeg image? Pfagh!

    They are losing. Going down for the third time, and yet they still are fighting...

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Brandon, Apr 30th, 2008 @ 12:26pm

    Just use PNG

    Just use PNG. It is smaller, open (so no patents) and you don't get all the exploits that JPEG brings.

     

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

    •  
      identicon
      inc, Apr 30th, 2008 @ 1:19pm

      Re: Just use PNG

      I second that motion.. plus alpha-channel transparency kicks gif's ass

       

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

    •  
      identicon
      Renaud Bompuis, Apr 30th, 2008 @ 7:06pm

      Re: Just use PNG

      No, PNG does not produce smaller images than JPEG.
      PNG uses a lossless compression, much like zip.
      At equal dimensions and visibly similar quality, a full colour PNG is way heavier than a JPEG (about 5 times, although that varies a lot on the type of image).

      JPEG uses a lossy compression that can be modulated from high-quality (little artefacts, almost as good as the original but large size) to very low quality (lots of artefacts, but very small size).

      Look up "Portable Network Graphics" on wikipedia.

      JPEG is tremendously useful and necessary. PNG is excellent but not very internet-friendly when full-colour images as so much bigger than their JPG equivalent.
      Only solution would be to move to the JPG2000 standard but few applications support it, and there's always the possibility that some patent trolls like GPH would just wait for it to become essential enough before they raise their ugly head.

       

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

      •  
        identicon
        Jaco Vermeulen, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:14pm

        Re: Re: Just use PNG

        Personally, I use PNG whenever I can for the reason that it's an open standard. With the rise in the amount of people using broadband, the difference in file size between JPEG and PNG is becoming less and less of an issue.

        However, I can see why a lossy format like JPEG is important, since there are still many people with slower modems. Perhaps there should be a move to create an open standard for a lossy format. I would suggest a petition to the W3C, or possibly going the route of Ogg and simply making it an open-source project.

         

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

  •  
    identicon
    eleete, Apr 30th, 2008 @ 12:55pm

    Statute of limitations?

    Isn't there some kind of time frame to act on something as widely used as this. It's not like this thing was created last week or something. Seems fishy to me to allow it for so long, and then cry poor me more than 10 years later.

    e

     

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

    •  
      identicon
      Willton, Apr 30th, 2008 @ 3:04pm

      Re: Statute of limitations?

      The statute of limitations does not begin to run until an act occurs that makes a legal claim cognizable to the claimant. A patent infringement claim cannot be cognizable until the patent claim in question is issued by the PTO. So first, we would have to know when this last, arguably questionable claim was issued; second, we'd have to know when an infringing act occured; and third, we'd have to know when the patent holder decided to file a complaint. Then we can figure out whether the S.O.L. bars the claim.

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2008 @ 12:56pm

    so basically a good 90% of all websites will get sued because of some JPEG patent which I am sure almost none of them ever knew existed for picture formats. I use JPEGs all the time and this is the first time I ever heard there was a patent on the format which I think is dumb in the first place. They are fighting a loosing battle plain and simple

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Tom G., Apr 30th, 2008 @ 1:06pm

    I always thought this patent was obvious and based on prior art.

    However, the thought that a great idea that an inventer invested time and money to bring to market become so successful that they aren't due royalties because everyone pirated is unsettling to me...

     

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

    •  
      identicon
      B-din, May 1st, 2008 @ 7:56am

      Re:

      Actually, from what I understand from the Forbes article, this guy didn't invent anything. He found this patent in 1996 and convinced a couple of old guys to turn it over to him in exchange for a share of the royalties he would get. Thus there is no reason to feel sorry for him not getting paid for his "invested time" as his invested time was only to scout around for an available patent. He's actually making money off something someone else invented.

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    Anon, Apr 30th, 2008 @ 2:48pm

    Should it be a loosing battle though? The RIAA gets away with almost anything with respects to copyright. As have other large companies gotten away with their patent suits.

    The law is there, if it was broken, then everyone needs to pay up. Of course it is too much common sense for any judiciary or the American government to understand.

     

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

    •  
      identicon
      Willton, Apr 30th, 2008 @ 3:07pm

      Re:

      The law is there, if it was broken, then everyone needs to pay up. Of course it is too much common sense for any judiciary or the American government to understand.

      Right, because you are so much smarter than the federal judiciary...

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    One Remaining Claim, Apr 30th, 2008 @ 5:04pm

    One Remaining Claim

    FYI, in response to the previous e-mail about what is covered by the "one remaining claim," which is claim 17 of that patent, you can find it on-line at:

    http://www.uspto.gov/web/patents/patog/week30/OG/html/1320-4/US05253341-20070724.html

    Late r.

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, Apr 30th, 2008 @ 5:51pm

    Better Link

    Here's a better link, that does not run through Scribd, and its idiotic Javascript system.

    http://271patent.blogspot.com/2008/04/nd-ill-stays-global-patent-holdings.html

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Apathy Curve, May 1st, 2008 @ 12:02pm

    GPH...

    "Global Patent Holdings." That's a life-support system for greedy, unethical lawyers if ever there was one.

    Hrm. I think I used a double redundancy in that last sentence...

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    angry dude, May 1st, 2008 @ 12:43pm

    idiotas

    Just where did you see JPEG, retards ?

    "SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

    The present invention is directed to an improved method and apparatus for displaying audio/visual data and/or graphical/tabular information transmitted from a remote server to an end user station (EUS) for the purpose of decompressing (optional), viewing and/or listening to the responsive data. In operation, the EUS transmits a query to the server for the purpose of initiating a process in the server (e.g. data compression, indexing into a very large database, etc.), via an optional concentrator or requiring the high speed processing, large capacity and multi-distributed data storage, etc. typically included in the server. The EUS provides appropriate inverse processing (e.g. data decompression where appropriate) which, by its nature, requires comparatively fewer computer resources to accomplish. Thus, the method of this invention exploits an inherent asymmetry in the overall process in which an EUS queries a remote server (and/or Server Network) for a data service (e.g. retrieval of audio visual data in faster than real time) where most of the processing power resides in the Server. Data distribution efficiencies for EUS devices can improve by using the intermediary or a concentrator in conjunction with clusters of EUS devices connected via concentrator to a server. FM auxillary service centers can also serve such a function.

    In accordance with the present invention, a method for data retrieval from a remote server comprising the following steps and displaying said data is disclosed. The invention comprises the following steps: formulating a query via a data input means and transmitting said query to remote query and data processing means; transmitting said query from said remote query and data processing means to a remote host via input/output means; receiving a compressed or non-compressed response to said query at said remote query and data retrieval system from said remote host via said input/output means; decompressing, said query if compressed; and displaying and optionally providing audio for a presentation corresponding to said query results on a output means."

    Do you know what JPEG actually means, punks ?
    I doubt it

     

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

    •  
      icon
      Mike (profile), May 2nd, 2008 @ 1:41am

      Re: idiotas

      Just where did you see JPEG, retards ?

      Angry dude, of course it doesn't say JPEG. As is obvious to just about anyone (except you apparently), we're using JPEG as a shorthand to describe the patent. The reason is because the single claim is being used against anyone displaying a JPEG.

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, May 1st, 2008 @ 5:31pm

    The Patent Office Could Get There First.

    Suppose that the Patent Office was to give absolute priority to processing matters pertaining to patents in which the Federal Courts had taken an interest. The time the Patent Office actually spends on a patent action is on the order of hours. The customary delay is nearly all in the backlog. Even allowing for unavoidable delays, it ought to be possible to process priority patent actions in days or weeks, by putting them at the front of the waiting line. Only a tiny fraction of patents become involved in litigation, and processing those patents first would not materially slow down the other work. There are only several hundred federal judges, and they have many other things besides patents to deal with. There are a vastly larger number of patent examiners. The Patent Office ought to be able to outrun the Federal Courts, and reach its definitive position before the Federal Courts have time to do anything. A Federal Judge has to give priority to more serious matters, such as Habeas Corpus in federal criminal cases involving serious prison time (eg. alleged drug dealing). It should not be very hard for the Patent Office to get ahead and stay ahead. An efficient government organization manages its affairs so as to give priority to cases involving external review, so as not to be caught holding untenable positions in public.

    There are certain types of patents which have a very low likelihood of ever being commercialized, eg. home machines for compacting or recycling garbage (*). The patent office is likely to be flooded with applications for patents covering such machines. Inventing such a machine is the normal husbandly reaction to being asked to take out the trash, and there are literally millions of possible inventors. Some kind of reasonable allocation of priorities would mean that patent applications got processed with a speed commensurate with the likelihood of their becoming the foci of legal disputes.

    (*) Garbage is... well... garbage. Low value is inherent in the definition, and therefore a machine handling garbage would have to handle hundreds of tons of garbage to have any chance of showing a profit.

     

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This