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More on the .GIF factor
From: David Farber <farber () central cis upenn edu>
Date: Tue, 3 Jan 1995 19:56:18 -0500

Date: Tue, 3 Jan 1995 16:53:15 -0800
From: "Brock N. Meeks" <brock () well sf ca us>
To: farber () central cis upenn edu

Dave, this just in from the WELL, it's from a CompuServe official
that is able to speak to the .GIF dust up.  As you'll see, he has
given permission to repost his comments.

Unisys, as it turns out, seems to be the "bad guy."

 -- Brock

Topic 658 [eff]:  CompuServe/Unisys Lower the Hammer on GIF
#29 of 30: Tom Mandel (mandel)      Tue Jan  3 '95 (16:27)    51 lines

 I asked Tim Oren directly about this and here's what he said, with
 permission to pass it along...

 From: Tim Oren <TIMOREN () csi compuserve com>
 To: Tom Mandel <mandel () well sf ca us>
 Subject: CIS/GIF
 Message-ID: <CSI_6087-116212 () CompuServe COM>
 Status: R

 Tom -

 Re GIF, I can talk about it, and if the impression being left is
 that we are trying to make big bucks, I definitely need to talk
 about it, because we've lef t the wrong impression.  Here's the
 story, which you CAN repeat, WITH my name attached:

 GIF was originally developed at CompuServe by Steve Wilhite, who
currently works for me.  As part of it, he used with the LZW
compression scheme, which had been openly published by Unisys
engineer in a journal.  A number of other developers picked up
and used LZW as well.  None of us knew that Unisys had filed for,
and eventually received, a patent on the LZW scheme.  I believe
this is called a 'submarine' patent - it can surface and get you
later.  We were got.

 Unisys proposed an infringement suit, and we had no recourse but
 to settle.  We are paying licensing fees in a manner which IS a
 nondisclosure item.  One of the things we needed to be able to
 do is to 'pass through' a license embodying both LZW & GIF to
 those developers who create their own client programs to
 CompuServe, such as TAPCIS and Mac Nav, since they 'practice'
 LZW as well.  The reason that GIF is included as a conditional
 in such licenses is that we can't pass through an unrestricted
 LZW license, and the reason there is money involved is that we
 in turn have to pay Unisys.

 If anyone is taking the impression that we are asserting
 proprietary rights in GIF additional to the LZW patent, that is
 wrong.  Neither are we attempting to assist Unisys in enforcing
 their patent with respect to non-CompuServe environments, such
 as the Internet, though 'buying into' our license would be one
 way of Internet based vendors in avoiding possible action from

 This is far more headache than it is worth, believe me, and we
 are actively engaged in looking at migration strategies that
 will get us and our customers off the hook.  Our reputation has
 been damaged by being an unwitting partner to Unisys during
 those 7 years of encouraging proliferation, and we are not happy
 about it.  (I'm sure Stallman - rms - could find a moral in here
 somewhere... )

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