ablair's blog

JPEG Patent Ruled Invalid

In a ruling that is expected to be a sigh of relief for many corporate internet giants (and surfers), Forgent's "submarine patent" claim of ownership of the common JPEG file compression format was ruled to be broadly invalid by the US Patent Office. The original patent was granted by the USPTO to Forgent but The Public Patent Foundation (PubPat) challenged the patent claiming prior art. Since 2002, Forgent has said it would enforce it's patent and has sucessfully extracted over $90 million USD from dozens of companies using JPEG images on the internet. In 2004 it also initiated lawsuits against dozens more who refused to pay royalties and sign licensing agreements. Those lawsuits and licensing agreements may now be in jeopardy.

EU Now Says No to Software Patents

The European Commission, in an official reply to a parliament Member's question, last week stated that computer programs will not be patentable in the new European patent law. This directly contradicts the executive body's earlier stances on the issue. No reason was given for the change in position, though recent wins in the EU Parliament and in various courts have begun to build momentum against software patents. After the law is passed, software patents already granted by the Eupoean Patent Office are likely to be struck down (as some already have been in the UK). European Parliament member Adam Gierek (Poland) stated:

Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference Reviewed

The venerable TidBITS mailing list, a Macintosh computer-oriented list operating since 1990, sent members to the 16th annual Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference (CFP) in Washington DC last week, one of whom posted a revealing conference rewiew in this week's issue.

TidBITS 828: "CFP 2006: Life, Liberty and Digital Rights"

The conference is typically an intense 4 days of discussions and presentations on privacy, security, social, and technical issues. The reviewer states that if you want a "master's degree in privacy and social issues related to technology, and you only have four days, CFP is an excellent bet." A wide range of critical international topics were covered this year, from current NSA wiretapping practices, privacy & the constitutionality of surveillance and the state of laws to this effect in Canada, the US & EU, DRM & Fair Use, Electronic Voting Systems, Cell Phone Tracking, and more.

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