Software Patent on JPEG2000?

I have recently been scanning old negatives and slides on my junky HP PhotoSmart scanner. I’ve been scanning at 2400 DPI (the max of the scanner) so I won’t have to do it again. Saving these files in the TIFF format yields large 22 MB files. I’d prefer to store them in a lossless format. I found that a relatively new format, JPEG2000, has a lossless mode. There’s a plugin that will let Photoshop Elements read and write JP2 files. The lossless JPEG2000 version of my TIFF file is only 13MB, a 9MB savings per file. That translates to a lot more usable disk space. Sounds like a great format to use….

But I recently found out that a company is claiming a patent on JPEG2000. The patent was denied in court but the company is appealing. A successful appeal could ruin a freely available and open format, and I don’t think I want to archive hundreds of photos to a format that may fall by the wayside due to potentially high licensing fees from some patent owner. Don’t forget about the GIF debacle.

As a software developer, it annoys me to see companies claiming patents on what amounts to mathematical formulas, or standard business practices that just happen to be implemented with a computer. By allowing patents on trivial software tasks, the USPTO has created a minefield for small developers who don’t have a legal department to deal with that stuff. We just want to create useful software!

P.S. We seem to be stuck with software patents here in the U.S. Maybe the Europeans can do something to avoid them.