When I was browsing the web today, which I normally do before I start work, just to keep up-to-date with what is going on in the industry, I came across a company press release (http://www.corporate-ir.net/ireye/ir_site.zhtml?ticker=forg&sc..._id=314044
) from Forgent Networks that struck me as a blatant rip-off. Let me explain as I normally donít go about making bold claims about a company on a personal title and especially not when Iím accusing the company in question of ripping someone off.
Forgent Networks is a company that, through its subsidiary Compression Labs Inc., holds the patent, No. 4,698,672, to the well known JPEG compression standard. The press release stated that after 16 years, the patent is dated 1986, Forgent is starting to enforce their patent. Now donít get me wrong, I don't see anything wrong with patent-enforcing, but the problem I'm having here is the simple fact that the JPEG compression standard has been around for 16 years now, almost every PC has software that reads/writes/understands this format. And now, after 16 years, Forgent decides to cash in on the patent, by demanding from manufacturers of equipment that use JPEG compression to start paying royalties.
This mentality seems very familiar to something you can see happening on playgrounds and street corners of a large number of American cities. Although a blatantly graphic example, I'm speaking about the drug dealer mentality; drug dealers give 'future victims' a free supply of their 'goods'. Once the 'victim' is 'hooked', the dealer starts asking money. This is a very efficient and profitable way of running your business, IF you are a drug dealer. Now I was wondering: Is Forgent willing to adapt a 'drug dealer'-reputation amongst IT professionals, only to be somewhat more profitable? I personally think that Forgent Networks should think twice before engaging in this course of operation, especially after 16 years. You might make some easy money by going after the manufacturers of, for example, digital cameras, scanners, imaging software, but in the long run IT professionals will search for alternatives, and find them. And when good alternatives for JPEG are common, IT professionals will remember the stunt that Forgent pulled with the JPEG patents, and they will avoid doing any business with Forgent.