Back in Februar this year, MPEG LA announced a call for patents essential to the VP8 video codec specification as outlined in Google's WebM release for submissions by March 18.
The codec is central to WebM, the video file format that competes with the expensive H.264 format. For those who do not know, MPEG LA manages patents for motion pictures and video.
Recently, a spokesman for MPEG LA in an interview with Streaming Media, quoted as saying that companies had come forward and identified patents that are essential to the VP8 codec. When asked, the representative stated:
Assuming that you've received a patent or patents that is/are deemed essential, what happens next?
Those patent holders found to have at least one essential patent were invited to discuss and determine the possible creation of a pool license and the terms of any such license. Thus far, 12 parties have been found to have patents essential to the VP8 standard. Generally, parties may submit patents for evaluation of essentiality to VP8 at any time during the process of facilitating a patent pool, and may continue to do so after the pool launches, assuming one is formed.
When a patent pool license is created, it's offered as a convenience to the market enabling users to take a license to as much essential intellectual property as possible in a single license as an alternative to negotiating separate licenses with individual patent owners. Decisions whether to bring actions for infringement of patents are made by individual patent owners.
So what's it all mean? My take is this: The bottom line is that there're some patent holders with claims that VP8 infringes upon their IP rights, but that a patent group hasn't been formed. I'm not privy to any discussions, but I would assume that one very salient factor regarding whether to form a group is the likelihood of prevailing against Google if a patent infringement suit was filed, and the estimated cost of that suit.
After spending $105 million to acquire the technology, it's unlikely that Google wouldn't fight any infringement claims, and legal fees that would seem monumental to most companies would be remote rounding errors for Google. Sometimes the 600-pound gorilla wins without a fight.
Google did issue a statement on the matter, saying:
MPEG LA has alluded to a VP8 pool since WebM launched--this is nothing new. The web succeeds with open, community-developed innovation, and the WebM Project brings the same principles to web video. The vast majority of the industry supports free and open development, which is why we formed the WebM CCL enabling member organizations to license patents they may have that are essential to WebM technologies to other members of the CCL. We are firmly committed to the project and establishing an open codec for HTML5 video.
[Via: Streaming Media]