I read about this a little earlier today, but it took a post over at Cynic’s Tea Party to remind me that I should bitch about it a little. Seems a company named Forgent out of Texas is claiming to hold patents to a good portion of the technology behind the JPEG image file format much the same way that Unisys suddenly up and laid claim to patents behind the GIF image format a few years back. Forgent apparently bought the patents awhile back, they never actually created any of the technology they’re now laying claim to, and have decided that it’s time folks start paying for something they’ve used for free for over a decade. If their claim holds up they’re estimating the patent could generate over $100 million in license fees. They’ve already convinced a couple of Japanese digital camera makers to start coughing up back payments with Sony alone rumored to have ponied up over $17 million for the right to continue to use JPEG compression in it’s cameras. This development means that JPEG could lose it’s status as an ISO Standard for web graphics.
The irony of it all? The patent is set to expire in 2004.