JPEG Patent Lawsuit Gets Hot

Gretchen Gallen
WILMINGTON, Del – More than 20 of the most powerful U.S. technology companies filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming that a JPEG patent held by Austin, Texas-based Forgent Networks is being wrongly enforced.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Wilmington, Del.

Leading the pack of patent litigants is IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard, Dell Inc., Gateway Inc., Apple Computer Inc., and Xerox Corp., which are all seeking to invalidate the patent they believe was used by Forgent and patent partner General Instrument Corp. to extort money from the tech industry. General Instrument is owned by Motorola.

Other plaintiffs include Canon USA Inc., Eastman Kodak Co., Fujitsu Computer Products of America Inc., Toshiba America Inc., Agfa Corp., Matsushita Electric Corp. of America, and PalmOne Inc.

The lawsuit follows a wave of patent infringement lawsuits filed by Forgent and General Instrument against dozens of companies it claims are using the JPEG standard without a proper licensing agreement.

JPEG, short for Joint Photographic Experts Group, is a standard for color digital-image compression.

Forgent and General Instrument claim to have filed an application for the patent in 1987, but the plaintiffs contend that the two patent holders are using their alleged ownership of the JPEG standard purely for profit, rather than furthering an original invention.

Neither Forgent or General Instrument have issued statements regarding the lawsuit.

The patent lawsuit comes at a time when many companies are trying to nullify what are considered "frivolous" patents.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco, Calif.-based civil liberties organization, recently took aim at 10 of the most questionable patents in the technology industry that represent "crimes against the public domain, willful ignorance of prior art, and egregious display of obviousness."

The EFF is requesting that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reexamine those 10 patent applications.

Among the EFF's "wanted" list is adult industry foe Acacia Media Technologies, Clear Channel Entertainment, Ideaflood, Ninetendo, Seer Systems, and Firepond.