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JPEG patent holder renews royalty offensive

'We will never Forgent'

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Forgent Networks, which two years ago said it would pursue royalties on its JPEG patent, has renewed its offensive.

The compression patent used in the popular image format, (USPTO 4,698,672, or '672), was filed by Compression Labs in October 1986. This dormant company was acquired by Forgent Networks in 1997. In June 2002, Forgent announced that it had "sole and exclusive right to use and license all the claims" of '672 in all fields except satellite broadcasting. Widespread alarm and dismay accompanied the news that Forgent had persuaded Sony Corporation to pay $15m for use of the fees.

The furore died down after the ISO threatened to withdraw standards-blessing from the format. ISO can only endorse royalty-free formats. However, Forgent claims to have netted $90m in various licensing royalties since then.

Today's suit targets thirty industry refuseniks who Forgent says have rejected its royalty terms. These include Japanese consumer electronics giants JVC, Matsushita (Panasonic) and Ricoh; camera companies Fuji Photo Film, Agfa, Eastman Kodak; PC makers IBM, Dell, Apple, HP, Toshiba and Gateway; Xerox and Palm; and software companies including Adobe, Macromedia, and JASC.

In the US, patents expire twenty years from the date of filing, so Forgent has only two years to make good. ®

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