Finally, GIF is free

Old news, but I hadn’t paid attention and realized that, unemcumbered by patents finally, the GIF format is truly free.

I am sure a lot of you remember the great “GIF fiasco”: more than a decade ago, Unisys decided to make money out of the most used image file format on the Internet: the GIF format. To be more precise, Unisys announced that they would go after developers of programs able to load and save GIF files (never mind the fact that even back then there was plenty of free software which wouldn’t have been able to pay).

To make the short story shorter, the PNG file was invented as a reaction to Unisys’ move; although it was never wildly successful, PNG did manage to make Unisys’s threat very much irrelevant. Unisys took their time, but eventually realised that if they had seriously sued people over the GIF patent, the days of the GIF format would be over.

. . .

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.

So between Unisys giving up on suing (what with that probably killing the format, leaving Unisys in charge of absolutely nothing) and the expiration of the patents which caused the ruckus, we can finally use GIF without fear of problems from the patent police.

[tags]Old news, GIF patent free, Unisys gives up suing for GIF[/tags]

One thought on “Finally, GIF is free”

  1. That’s a load off my mind… I have felt like a criminal on the lamb all these years. My daily confession in Church has brought me no peacefulness.


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