[time-nuts] If any of your USB devices have stopped working lately...

Chuck Harris cfharris at erols.com
Fri Oct 24 09:32:05 EDT 2014

Jim Lux wrote:
>> This dispute reminds me of another one.
>> A long long time ago, .gif was the internet standard for encoding photographs.  Far
>> and away the favorite.  Then the owner (was it
>> AOL?) decided to enforce their patent by getting snotty with end users.  Almost
>> overnight, .gif virtually disappeared off the face of the earth, to be replaced by
>> .jpg, previously an also-ran.  The IP holder got their wish "We wish people would
>> stop free loading on our IP.".  Be careful what you wish for as the saying goes.
>> Let's see if history repeats itself.
>> Rick

> It wasn't GIF, per se (which was promulgated by CompuServe), but the fact that it is
> LZW compression, which was patented by Welch and assigned to Unisys in the mid 80s
> (so the patent has expired by now)
> Other compression schemes by Lempel and Ziv were also patented (earlier).

Yep!  The thing we need to bear in mind is that Welch, etal, were
pretty well compensated by the customers to which they had licensed
the LZW algorithms.  The "free" users were paying nothing to LZW,
and were causing LZW's licensed customers to wonder why they were
paying big bucks for algorithms that were being universally used
for free.

So, even though GIF (which had nothing to do with LZW, other than
infringing the patent) lost its great market share, that happening
had no apparent effect on LZW's bottom line.

A different company (Microsoft), when faced with a very similar
situation (MSBasic on CPM systems), leveraged the publicity and
good will provided by the free users, into the leviathan company
that is Microsoft today.

LZW took the straight hard line and eschewed the fame and glory
that came with being the heart of the GIF adhoc standard, and where
are they today?

Business is a tricky business.

-Chuck Harris

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