Joho the BlogTime for the Patent Office to move off of TIFF? - Joho the Blog

Time for the Patent Office to move off of TIFF?

Look up a patent at the US Patent Office site, click on “Images” to see the image, and the chances are very good that you’ll get the sense that people are patenting white paper over and over and over again. The images generally do not show up. (Example)

A little exploration (which you shouldn’t have to do) explains that this is knowingly broken:

These full-page images are not directly viewable using most Web browsers.They are in 300 d.p.i. Tagged Image File Format (TIFF). However, there are many variants — or “flavors” — of TIFF, including different ways of compressing the image data within the TIFF file. The TIFF flavor used by PTO and other countries’ intellectual property offices is international standard ITU T.6 or CCITT Group 4 (G4) compression. Displaying them requires either a TIFF G4 plug-in for your browser, or a properly installed and configured application to which your browser sends G4 TIFF images for display. Note that relatively few image viewers and plug-ins handle G4 compression.

So, here’s an idea: Convert the images to a format that browsers can handle. Post those. Make TIFF the format you have to ask for specially.

Would a business post links to images that they know won’t show up, and make you go to a Help page to discover why? (Thanks to Greg Cavanagh for the alert.)

3 Responses to “Time for the Patent Office to move off of TIFF?”

  1. So, all those blank pages really had images! Great-then my idea for a blank page really is patentable! Retirement, here I come.

  2. TIFF with G4 compression is an efficient LOSSLESS format. Unlike JPEG, TIFF does not degrade the picture. The compression is the same as in Fax systems and is very good for handling the large amount of white space in most documents.
    What is needed is for the browsers image viewer to be upgraded to handle TIFF G4.

    TIFF G4 is one of the preferred archival formats for black and white images as unlike the more common JPEG format its compression was designed for black and white.

    As TIFF G4 is not encumbered by patents, free and commercial plugins are available for Firefox and IE
    AlternTIFF is free but requires registration – see
    Accel ViewTIFF Plug-in is a commercial product (with a free 15 day trial)
    – see

    GPL source of a TIFF library is available for anyone wanting to write their own plugin – see

  3. […] Time for the Patent Office to move off of TIFF?-┬áDavid Weinberger, March 12, 2012 […]

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