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Red prevails over Apple in Rawcode patent challenge

Apple's request for a review of a patent owned by high-performance camera maker Red relating to Rawcode RAW has failed, and Red claims that its relationship with Apple is stronger than ever.

Red Raven camera kit

Filed on May 6, 2019 the petition from Apple to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office called for an Inter Partes review of patent number 9,245,314 titled simply "Video Camera." The PTAB denied the review on November 8, saying that as filed, there wasn't a reasonable likelihood that Apple would prevail in its efforts to do so.

Apple's challenges were mostly dismissed because of the non-obviousness of the patents in question. Furthermore, Apple's claims that by combining two other patents, Red's patents were eligible for review were also refuted by the PTAB.

In a post on the official Reduser forums, Red Digital Camera president Jarred Land issued a statement about the PTAB ruling.

To be clear, as I mentioned before, this never really was Apple vs. RED," Land said. "It has always been APPLE + RED, and this was all part of the process defining how we work together in the future.

RED integration with Apple's METAL framework for realtime R3D playback is coming along well and the work that the two teams are doing together is exceeding expectations. We are very excited for the new Mac Pro and the new XDR pro display and the power they bring to the entire RED workflow.

The patents challenged largely describe a camera that can "capture, compress, and store video image data in a memory of the video camera. However, it pertains more to Rawcode, Red's format for holding RAW footage, unprocessed imaging data from the sensor. Apple believed that some of the claims of the patent are "unpatentable," and that the patent itself should be invalidated.

Apple claimed that the challenged patents in question did not provide "written description support" for some claims, such as the disclosure of "outputting the raw mosaiced image data at a resolution of at least 2k and at a frame rate of at least about 23 frames per second." While the patent describes decompression and demosaicing algorithms, it "does not disclose image resolution or frame rate parameters, let alone a camera system capable of meeting such parameters."

There is a lack of description of "mosaiced" image data, with it only referencing "demosaic" and other tenses of the term. There is also the argument of "Demosaiced Motion Video Data" not being defined properly, and the meaning of "Substantially Visually Lossless" was challenged by Apple as well.

The patent describes the memory device for the last phrase to be "sufficiently large to store image data from the compression module corresponding to at least about 30 minutes of video at 12 megapixel resolution, 12-bit color resolution, and at 60 frames per second."

Apple notes there is no mention of the capacity of memory required for such a device, but based on the mention of a "compression ratio of at least six to one," the company reckons there needs to be a total memory capacity of 324 gigabytes, a considerably high amount of data from the time of the patent's creation.

"This is standard operating procedure for patent holders," Land said when the investigation request was filed. "It's not the first time someone has challenged the Redcode patents and each time our patents have held fast. Red fully anticipates its patents will be held valid again."

Apple has additional avenues to appeal the ruling by the PTAB. It isn't clear if Apple will pursue the matter further.

Apple has previously sold Red camera bundles in its stores, with the 2017 Red Raven camera kit including the Raven camera body and everything needed to produce cinematic video for $15,000.