Last year at its Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple announced a low-energy, high-performance compression algorithm to its developers. The LZFSE compression library and command-line tool reference implementation are now available on GitHub under Apple’s own license. The code was originally released on GitHub 19 days ago.
LZFSE was specifically designed to save energy on portable devices. Thus, it offers “the compression ratio of ZLIB level 5, but with much higher energy efficiency and speed (between 2x and 3x) for both encode and decode operations,” according to Apple’s documentation on the algorithm. “LZFSE is only present in iOS and OS X, so it can’t be used when the compressed payload has to be shared to other platforms (Linux, Windows). In all other cases, LZFSE is recommended as a replacement for ZLIB.”
While the reference implementation for the LZFSE is on GitHub, the compression algorithm itself has already drawn some questions from potential users around IP rights. One GitHub user has already opened an issue questioning whether Apple has any patents that cover LZFSE.
A quick scan of patent records doesn’t show any specific compression patents from Apple since 2002, and even then its patents in compression were heavily focused on images. Apple has yet to respond to the open issue on GitHub inquiring about patent coverage.