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November 21, 1993

MULTIMEDIA WORLD UP IN ARMS OVER COMPTON’s PATENT ON THE WHOLE IDEA

By CBR Staff Writer

Tribune Publishing Co’s Compton’s New Media Inc unit in Carlsbad, California caused the biggest storm at Comdex/Fall last week when put a panther among the multimedia pigeons announcing that it will use the patent it received in August on its CD-ROM encyclopaedia to collect royalties on any program that uses graphics, sound and animation rather than text alone to search and retrieve information stored in databases. If the patent is interpreted broadly, it could mean that hundreds, potentially thousands, of programs that have been on the market for years are now instantly in violation. Compton’s reckons it kick-started the multimedia market in the early 1980s, at a time when investment in the industry was risky and expensive; it also claims that it alone established retail distribution for multimedia software. The company says it has no intention of slowing down development and plans to license the technology widely. Compton’s says its patent extends far beyond the multimedia CD-ROM software from the likes of Microsoft Corp, Apple Computer Inc and IBM Corp to virtually any database that uses more than just text to retrieve information, such as on-line services and in the embryonic interactive television.The patent is called Multimedia Search System Using A Plurality Of Entry Path Means Which Indicate Inter-relatedness Of Information and describes the technology as A database search system that retrieves multimedia information in a flexible, user-friendly system. The search system uses a multimedia database consisting of text, picture, audio, and animated data. That database is searched through multiple graphical and textual entry paths. According to Newsbytes, Compton’s is looking to collect in one of four ways – 1% of the net profits, rising to 3% for those that do not comply by June 30 1994; a strategic licensing agreement; distribution of multimedia information which it will buy for resale at a 65% discount; or the purchase of a Compton’s tool set for title development with associated run-time fees for distribution.

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