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Sony sued over image thumbnails patent

The Register reports that Sony is being sued by Ampex for violating "patents it holds for the storage and retrieval of digital images". Ampex is asking for a ban on importing of Sony PDA's and digital cameras in the US. Although the particular patents are not mentioned, a quick search turned up patent US4821121.

Claim 1:

  1. An electronic still store system comprising: an image store means for retrievably storing therein a
    • plurality of image frame copies of video frames, the image frame copies comprising data representing full spatial resolution images and corresponding data representing reduced spatial resolution images of the video frames; frame store means for receiving and storing in a first mode one of said full spatial resolution images from said image store means and for repetitively generating a full spatial resolution image output, and in a second mode for receiving from the image store means and storing a plurality of said reduced spatial resolution images each at selectively located different positions, the frame store means in the second mode further repetitively generating an image output comprising the stored plurality of said reduced spatial resolution images; and size reducer means for receiving from the frame store means the stored full spatial resolution image and in response thereto returning to the frame store means a corresponding reduced spatial resolution image, wherein the frame store means receives and stores the returned reduced spatial resolution image while continuing to store the stored full spatial resolution image.

Basically, it seems they've patented the concept of keeping thumbnails alongside full resolution images, and showing those thumbnails all together in one image. It's still valid till 2009. They also have a similar European Patent: EP0122094. However, it's only valid till 17 October 2004 at best (it was published in 1984).

Claim 1:

  1. An electronic still store system comprising:
    • an image store (24) arranged for retrievably storing therein a plurality of frames of video images with both a full spatial resolution copy and a reduced spatial resolution copy of each image being stored; and a frame store (22) which is operable in a first mode to receive from the image store and repetitively generate a full spatial resolution output image frame and operable in a second mode to receive from the image store and store a plurality of reduced spatial resolution image frames, the frame store being further operable in the second mode to repetitively generate an output image frame having an image from each of the plurality of reduced spatial resolution image frames selectively located at a different position within the output image frame.

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