Macromedia settled with litigious company, Forgent, which claims the patent on compression used in the JPEG format, last week - and Forgent threatens to sue Tivo and MP3 player makers, too.

Apple remains in conflict with Forgent. Macromedia, Adobe and Sony, however, have all settled for undisclosed sums.

Forgent subsidiary Compression Labs owns United States Patent Number 4,698,672 (known as the '672 Patent). This patent covers technologies used in JPEG image compression.

Wide-ranging patent

Other fields of use include: any digital still-image device used to compress, store, manipulate, print or transmit digital still images. It also extends to include many digital-stills devices such as PDAs, mobile phones, printers, scanners and other devices used to compress, store, manipulate, print or transmit digital still images.

In an attempt to defend themselves against making massive cash payments to Forgent, IBM, HP, Apple, Canon, Eastman Kodak, Xerox and 16 other companies launched a countersuit in July. They claim the patent to be "unenforceable".

Get rich easy

Forgent claims to have received $90 million in licensing fees before it launched litigation, and an additional $45 million since. Half the cash goes to its legal teams.

"Included in the $90 million are two licensing deals worth approximately $15 million each negotiated with Sony and 'an unnamed digital camera maker'", reports Magazine Design.

Newspaper the American Statesman in a report republished on Forgent's Web site speculates: "Two of Forgent's former lawyers say the company has only scratched the surface with the patent and that the potential payoff could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars."

Forgent threatening the digital home

"The company is demanding payment for a patent it says underlies the digital-recorder technology behind TiVo," it continues, explaining that any action in this regard could come as soon as this year.

Perhaps more chilingly: "Forgent views the JPEG data-compression standard as possibly applying to MP3 players, according to documents filed in a Dallas County state district court lawsuit," the report explains.

"Forgent intends to vigorously pursue and defend the pending litigations," said Richard Snyder, Forgent chairman and CEO.

"We are committed to the intellectual property program and our objective remains to protect our intellectual property assets from infringement."