Sunday, October 01, 2006

October Trick or Treat

As of today (October 1, 2006), apparently the GIF format is completely free of patent restrictions. (Check out today's UserFriendly for a humorous take on the issue.) The interesting thing about this is crusing around the web, I found much along the lines of this Wikipedia quote:
On June 20, 2003, the United States patent on the LZW algorithm expired, which meant that Unisys could no longer collect royalties for use of the GIF format in that country. Those bothered by the patent enforcement dubbed this day GIF Liberation Day. The equivalent patents in Europe and Japan expired on June 18 and June 20, 2004 respectively, with the Canadian patent following on July 7.
With patents expiring over the last three years around the world, it's only today that the Software Freedom Law Center feels the issue is finally and truly resolved. Maybe.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

From gnu.org, where the quotation originated:

"1. We were able to search the patent databases of the USA, Canada, Japan, and the European Union. The Unisys patent expired on 20 June 2003 in the USA, in Europe it expired on 18 June 2004, in Japan the patent expired on 20 June 2004 and in Canada it expired on 7 July 2004. The U.S. IBM patent expired 11 August 2006, The Software Freedom Law Center says that after 1 October 2006, there will be no significant patent claims interfering with employment of the GIF format."

Sprig said...

Yes, the maybe was a bit more ironic than serious. A few years ago, many people were saying the GIF patent was done, and in some senses it was - but there were still a few lingering bits which it seems now are finally resolved.

This sort of thing seems to be common around popular technologies - check out this analysis of the MP3 patent(s).