Tuesday, November 02, 2004

ISO JPEG 2000 LITIGATION UPDATE: In a move that allegedly threatens the ISO JPEG2000 imagery standard, Lizardtech, Inc. is appealing a US Federal Court Order, which ruled that Claim 21 of US patent #5,710,835 was invalid. The '835 patent was developed by Los Alamos National Laboratories, and licensed by Lizardtech.

In October 1999 Lizardtech sued Earth Resource Mapping (ER Mapper), claiming infringement of the '835 patent. ER Mapper is a strong supporter of the JPEG2000 image standard, which competes with Lizardtech's proprietary compressed image format. Further details on the original court action and win by ER Mapper are available at directionsmag.com.

The case has a long and expensive history. It came to an end in March 2004 when Chief Judge John Coughenour of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington ruled that the '835 patent Claim 21 and its dependent claims are invalid. Judge Coughenour further ruled that ER Mapper's products do not infringe the remainder of the '835 patent.

According to ER Mapper (one of the accused parties in the litigation), if Lizardtech were to win their appeal and overturn the ruling that Claim 21 of the '835 patent is invalid, then they may require that users of JPEG2000 - or indeed any wavelet based imagery format - pay a license fee to Lizardtech to use the'835 patent.

Submarine patents covering common image formats are of serious concern in the JPEG community. In 1994, Unisys required that developers would have to pay a license fee in order to continue to use technology patented by Unisys in certain categories of software supporting the GIF format. In 2002, Forgent reported that it was seeking licensing revenue from companies using the old JPEG (not JPEG2000) image format. After obtaining $15 million from licensing their patent to a third-party licensee, Forgent sued 31 companies in 2004 for using JPEG without paying Forgent a licensing fee.

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