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Apple Vs. RED: Was the REDCODE RAW Patentable or Unpatentable?

Let’s take a close look at Apple’s challenge to RED, the dispute, the decision, and what it means for the future of both companies.

In May, Apple filed a patent petition claiming that RED’s patent on REDCODE RAW was “Unpatentable” for a number of reasons. After the hearing, the court ruled in RED’s favor, stating that Apple’s legal team had not supported their claims sufficiently. This decision means that RED will retain the patent on its implementation of raw compression.

The Dispute

Apple Vs. RED: Was the REDCODE RAW Patentable or Unpatentable? — Apple's Office Building

Apple claimed that the REDCODE RAW was unpatentable. Image via THINK A.

In May of 2019, Apple filed its claim that RED’s patent (patent number 9,245,314) was invalid for a few main reasons. It claimed that the patent was based too heavily on two earlier patents — the first by Ari M. Presler regarding a “Digital camera system for recording, editing, and visualizing images,” and the second from Claus Mølgaard regarding “image compression for high-quality imaging.”

Essentially, Apple was asserting that RED’s patent was based on these earlier patents regarding HD or raw images, and lossless or near-lossless compression and decompression of images in a video camera. Because of this, they claimed that RED’s patent was obvious and shouldn’t be upheld.

In addition to this claim, Apple had several others that declared RED’s patent as unclear and vague about the way it described the method for its use of compression. These were Apple’s main complaints in the filing:

  • RED didn’t offer express definition of mosaiced image data in the patent, only referring to de-mosaicing.
  • RED also didn’t provide a clear enough definition of de-mosaiced data.
  • Apple claims that RED’s use of the term “Substantially Visually Lossless” is an obvious interpretation of the Presler and Mølgaard patents, making its use invalid.
  • RED didn’t specify the capacity of the memory device needed to store image data.

These complaints seem quite frivolous — but this is patent law and any claim may be furiously debated.

In addition to these four main complaints, Apple also cited twenty-five additional items in RED’s filings, which it deemed disqualified the patent. These issues largely reflect similar opinions of vague language or derived tech from earlier patents.

The Verdict

Apple Vs. RED: Was the REDCODE RAW Patentable or Unpatentable? — RED Ranger Camera

RED withstands the challenges of Apple’s claims. Image via RED.

Despite Apple’s arguments, the court ruled in RED’s favor in early November. It claimed that Apple didn’t show reasonable likelihood of winning its claim that REDCODE was unpatentable in the patent review stage.

Rather ironically, the court found Apple’s claims of RED’s vagueness in its patent to be vague and unclear. All of the challenges Apple brought were deemed unsubstantial and unsupported.

In a post on the REDUSER forums, Jarred Land made a post with more information after the ruling, stating:

“We are pleased to see our REDCODE patents withstand another challenge. To be clear, as I mentioned before, this never really was Apple vs. RED. It has always been APPLE + RED, and this was all part of the process, defining how we work together in the future.”

Jarred continued by saying that RED is hard at work with Apple to implement better support for R3D. The teams are working together to provide real-time playback, among other features in the works.

What Was the Point?

Apple Vs. RED: Was the REDCODE RAW Patentable or Unpatentable? — Apple's MacBook Pro

Apple and RED are now working together on a new project. Image via Apple.

If the two companies were working on projects together, why the litigation? It’s likely that Apple wanted to dismantle the patent to avoid paying RED royalties. Companies like GoPro pay RED to use similar raw processing in their cameras.

Maybe Apple has plans to release a cinema camera? Probably not. This likely means that Apple is looking to expand the ProRes RAW codec into more products moving forward. While pure speculation, some think this a likely situation. Perhaps Apple wants to expand its partnership with Atomos and bring PRR to more devices.

Whatever the case may be, RED will still get its cut on any similar tech Apple releases in the future.

With the resolution of this dispute, RED has now defended its patents against Sony, Nokia, and Apple. Quite impressive for a niche company. RED will likely see a bit of a boost to revenue, which hopefully means better tools and support to filmmakers.

Top image by create jobs 51.

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