USPTO to Reconsider JPEG Patent

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office agreed earlier this week to a request by the Public Patent Foundation to review a controversial patent that Forgent Networks has been attempting to enforce through lawsuits with dozens of companies, including Adobe, Microsoft, Apple, Sun, RIM and Google.

Forgent acquired the rights to the JPEG compression patent through a 1997 purchase of Compression Labs, however it did not start asserting its ownership and demanding licensing for the patent until a year ago.

PUBPAT first announced that it was asking the USPTO to revoke the compression patent in November of last year. It said that Forgent's actions were causing "substantial public harm" and it was harassing anyone who implements the JPEG support in their products.

Approximately 40 companies are now in litigation with Forgent, according to the company. It says the compression technologies covered in the patent are included within the JPEG technology, and anyone who uses the format must pay royalties back to the company.

More than $105 million in revenue from licensing fees for the patent have been paid to Forgent from over fifty companies on three continents, the company said.

"This is the first step towards ending the harm being caused to the public by Forgent Networks' aggressive assertion of the patent, which would never have been issued by the Patent Office if they had known of the prior art that we submitted as part of our reexamination request," PUBPAT's Executive Director Dan Ravicher said.

Prior art claims have become the best defense for companies accused of patent infringement. These claims aim to show that either part or all of a patent is not an original invention, thus having it invalidated.

Such a defense has worked so far for RIM, which announced Wednesday that all of NTP's patents had been invalidated due to prior art claims.

PUBPAT said that 70 percent of third-party requests for patent reexamination result in either a change or revocation of that patent.

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