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Patents

Newest Patent Threat to MPEG-4 365

Posted by Zonk
from the there-has-to-be-something,-right? dept.
Sachin Garg writes "After the notorious JPEG patent which has made many big and small names pay huge amounts to Forgent (total more than $105 million), PCMag reports that AT&T claims to have a patent covering core MPEG-4 technology and has warned Apple and others of Patent Infringement. Pentax and Nero have already paid them."
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Newest Patent Threat to MPEG-4

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  • Typical (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DoddyUK (884783) <doddyukNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:42AM (#14687039) Homepage

    1) Help to form new "revolutionary" file format.
    2) Wait for it to take off and become popular
    3) Use new file format popularity to hold companies to ransom thanks to the incompetancy of the current USPTO system.
    4) ...
    5) PROFIT!

    But honestly, is this the way for people to get their money nowadays? Claim "prior art" on any patent which seems convenient and then hold any company which uses the format to cut a hole in their wallet? Any patent issues should be resolved before a file format is made readily available, therefore any companies who happen to use the format will know of any pitfalls.

    I still admit that this may be nothing compared to the JPEG patent (which about 99.9% of websites use), but it still seems silly, just like any other USPTO story which is posted on /.

    Oh, and FP :)

    • Re:Typical (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hatta (162192)
      But honestly, is this the way for people to get their money nowadays? Claim "prior art" on any patent which seems convenient and then hold any company which uses the format to cut a hole in their wallet?

      That's not what prior art means. Prior art is a way of invalidating a patent by showing that the idea existed and was in use before it was patented. If MPEG-4 or something like it existed before the patent was filed, that would be an example of prior art.
    • by Soybean47 (885009) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:07AM (#14687246)
      The point of a "..." or "????" step is that it's not clear how to get from the previous step to the following one. In this case, there's no "..." step. There's just proft.
    • Re:Typical (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      is this the way for people to get their money nowadays?

      I think you will find that the more powerful government becomes, the more coercion and corruption you will find in the market (as opposed to voluntary association). The winners are those who can figure out how to exploit the power of government. The losers are those who rely on persuasion (voluntary association) to sell their product. Increasingly, the winners will be the bad guys, and the losers will be the good guys. There is no remedy to this probl

    • I am afraid that you are infringing on one of my patents.

      "A First Post on /. With content that is directly related to the article to which said First Post was posted is contained."

      I would kindly ask that you remove your post and rewrite it at some later point in this discussion.

      Intelligent First Posts, next they actually look at patents before the issuing them... What is the world coming to?

    • THINK OF THE PORN! Seriously. Theres money in them there web sites...
    • by mikael (484) on Friday February 10, 2006 @11:34AM (#14688080)
      But honestly, is this the way for people to get their money nowadays? Claim "prior art" on any patent which seems convenient and then hold any company which uses the format to cut a hole in their wallet?

      This is an example of submarine patents [wikipedia.org]. You have an idea, quietly patent it, but noisily advertise the technology. Then you wait for the patents to be granted and for industry to incorporate your technology into their products. Once the market has matured, you fire off multiple patent violations in every direction. By then, the cost of removing your technology from their products will cost far more than it would to pay the license fee.
      (For digital file formats, this is especially true, since both software and hardware codecs will already have been distributed, and third party customers will have distributed their data into this format.
    • Some people claim that the US patent system is broken, but that way of expressing the problem is a bit misleading. The word "broken" implies that something undefined caused the patent system to be disfunctional. That's not what happened. The disfunctionality was caused deliberately. Those who want government corruption so that they can make money have caused the patent system to be underfunded. They've done the same to the Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Here are short reviews of books about the corruption: Unprecedented Corruption: A guide to conflict of interest in the U.S. government [futurepower.org].
  • by neonprimetime (528653) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:43AM (#14687042) Homepage
    And I have a patent for Windows Viruses ... so ya 'all better stop writing them or I'll sue your @ss.

    Is AT&T Serious?
    • by dave-tx (684169) * <df19808+slashdot.gmail@com> on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:44AM (#14687055)
      And I have a patent for Windows Viruses ... so ya 'all better stop writing them or I'll sue your @ss.

      You'll do better if you go after end-users.

    • And I have a patent for Windows Viruses ... so ya 'all better stop writing them or I'll sue your @ss.

      It would not be the first.

      A lot of companies with DRM schemes patent the circumvention technology so that they can sue companies that come out with decoding tools.

      I don't know of a case in virus land, there would be a problem establishing novelty. But there certainly are people who would like to go after certain virus writers who try to avoid criminal liability by having other people distribute their

  • Pay Me Instead (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mfh (56) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:45AM (#14687056) Homepage Journal
    Nobody ever taught me about how lucrative this patent business was in school. Here I am, just a small-time dev working at an electronics shop to support my family. I need to patent something!

    I think Nero paid because they don't want to be shut down. AT&T could easily hold up a small company in court for years, bleeding their profits dry. I guess someone just did the math and figured it would be cheaper to pay off the patent mafia.
    • Re:Pay Me Instead (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zeinfeld (263942) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:00AM (#14687197) Homepage
      The patent system is an utter mess but I am not sure this is really evidence of abuse. AT&T may well have a genuine claim, they have certainly spent a huge amount developing compression technologies.

      Bell labs was a patent factory, they invested billions a year on research. Bell labs is an example of how the system is meant to work. Spend a non trivial amount on research, get a limited term monopoly in the invention in return.

      There are many other patent holders getting royalties from MPEG4, why not AT&T if they have a valid claim?

      I am not opposed to software patents in general, just the junk ones, which means at least 98%. The real problem is that the USPTO does not follow the rules it is supposed to. See my blog essay [blogspot.com].

      One of the problems with the current patent system is that there are so many junk patents being circulated by the trolls that the claims of genuine inventors are devalued.

      • I think the thing that stinks is that they sit there, knowing full well that they hold the patent, and let the tech go into wide-spread use before informing anyone that they hold the patent.

        With trademarks, the rule is enforce it or lose it. Too bad the same doesn't apply to patents...

        • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:33AM (#14687490) Homepage
          I think the thing that stinks is that they sit there, knowing full well that they hold the patent, and let the tech go into wide-spread use before informing anyone that they hold the patent.

          I agree it stinks, in fact I have been working on a part 4 to my essay [blogspot.com] where I make the same point.

          The problem is how to get from 'this stinks' as Plankton would say,to solving the problem without creating ways to game the patent system entirely.

          One solution would be to have a requirement that patent holders have to monitor major standards efforts in their field of invention, but how do you arrive at a legal definition of a standards effort? How do you avoid the problem of someone creating a bogus standards organization for the sole purpose of creating an exclusion to a patent?

          OK I know this particular problem would not make slashdotters upset. However it would likely allow the patent trolls to stop the law being changed.

          I am not interested in just debating the problem ad nauseam on slashdot, I want to get it fixed. To do that we need to create a wedge between the patent trolls and the major corporate holders of IP.

          If you look at what free software people want and where the interests of the big computer corporations lie there is a huge overlap, probably 95%. The problem is that a small number of ultras insist on all or nothing.

      • Bell labs was a patent factory, they invested billions a year on research. Bell labs is an example of how the system is meant to work. Spend a non trivial amount on research, get a limited term monopoly in the invention in return.

        But this is phone company AT&T, the Bell Labs are now part of a different company (called Lucent) who own the patents, etc.. So this probably has no relation to Bell Labs... AT&T isn't even AT&T anymore, its SBC that changed its name.. and as those on their part of the
  • XVID? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Danathar (267989) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:45AM (#14687058) Journal
    How would this affect open source/freeware implementations of standardized codecs like H.264?
    • I'm just guessing here, but I would think that unless you could prove that the freeware codecs were true clean-room reimplementations that didn't involve any of AT&T's IP (which it doesn't seem like anyone except AT&T has actually seen), then those codecs might have to get moved off of US servers and onto ones on friendlier shores.

      I think the Penguin Liberation Front [zarb.org] would probably be willing to host it.
      • Re:XVID? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by cortana (588495) <{sam} {at} {robots.org.uk}> on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:02AM (#14687207) Homepage
        A "device" either infringes on a patent or it doesn't. Independent invention is neither a license nor a defence.
        • Excellent point. Since we're not talking about a device, there's no infringement, then...unless there's an MPEG-4 device of some type that AT&T patented and that Pentax et-al have infringed upon.

          Very good example of wht patents and software are a bad marriage.

          • Re:XVID? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by NTiOzymandias (753325)
            The behavior of the software, according to current patent law, can be considered to constitute a device. This may include behavior pertaining not to its implementation, but to its interface.
      • Re:XVID? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by NTiOzymandias (753325)

        I'm just guessing here, but I would think that unless you could prove that the freeware codecs were true clean-room reimplementations that didn't involve any of AT&T's IP...

        This probably wouldn't help in the slightest. Any freeware implementation of a standard has to adhere to a certain level of compatibility, which necessarily includes stuff covered by patents because the standard designers need to hold onto the ability to sue people over it later, regardless of how they reimplement it.

        Even a "pa

    • The reason XVID binaries can only be found on underground networks, is because the MPEG4 standard is INFESTED with patents. There's no way an open source project can pay all the licenses. Ergo, they develop for "academic purposes", and provide only the source code so you have to compile it yourself. The binaries are unofficial, unsupported, in other words, taboo. Legally speaking, NOBODY should be using xvid AT ALL.

      (Isn't it amusing how commercial interests hinder innovation? I've been expecting DivX-capabl
      • by PCM2 (4486)
        The parent is correct that MPEG-4 is "infested" with patents. You could easily say that the main reason the MPEG organization exists at all is due to the issue of patents in multimedia. They are countless. There are so many patents governing every individual aspect of multimedia file formats like MPEG, in fact, that it would be virtually impossible for anyone to move forward with a product without licensing some of them.

        Seriously. If the companies that hold the multimedia patents did not work together, ther
  • Good thing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The more case like this one we get, the faster free formats will be adopted by the industry.
  • ffmpeg? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Se7enLC (714730) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:47AM (#14687081) Homepage Journal
    What about ffmpeg? I assume that will also be affected, as they provide MPEG-4 compression/decompression. What happens when you try to collect licensing fees from an open source project?
    • Re:ffmpeg? (Score:2, Informative)

      by scuba0 (950343)
      They have three options * If stationed outside of US don't bother * Exclude the codec * Pay the money Or maybe AT/T doesn't care about the opensource community because they can't collect any money there. Best option would be to let the opensource projects to roam free.
    • Re:ffmpeg? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by LiquidCoooled (634315)
      I suppose they could just give a percentage of their profits :)
    • What happens when you try to collect licensing fees from an open source project?

      If there's enough interest in the project, development moves to another country with less braindead patent laws. If there's not, it dies.

    • Re:ffmpeg? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HuguesT (84078)
      Actually, AFAIK the implementation of a patented technology is not per se an infringing use of the patent. On the contrary, patents are there, or at least were there initially, to make implementation of known technology easier (they are meant to make something "patent").

      As well, software patents are not valid in Europe, amongst other locales.

      Thus, the FFMPEG implementation in that light is not infringing. However *actually using* the FFMPEG library in the US for anything other than research would be. Only p
  • More like TradeMarks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RingDev (879105) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:47AM (#14687084) Homepage Journal
    Maybe I'm completely off base, but I think I remember hearing that if you don't defend your trade mark, you can lose your rights to it. Patents should be the same way, if you knowingly allow your patent to be infringed apon for 3 years and never so much as mention it to the infringer, why should you have the right to sue?

    -Rick
    • by SchrodingersRoot (943800) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:17AM (#14687345) Journal
      It's called genericization, or "genericide." If a word becomes used often enough by the public regardless of branding, the courts can declare a trademark a generic word.
      Heroin, Allen wrenches, and I think Spandex (Hence the new name Lycra) are all examples of this. There are many more, and there are plenty of companies that have trademarks that would appear to be in danger of "genericide" (the apparent legal term).

      Xerox actually was in danger of this, and started a campaign against "xeroxing", strongly suggesting that people instead "photocopy" documents.
    • by caudron (466327)
      if you knowingly allow your patent to be infringed apon for 3 years and never so much as mention it to the infringer, why should you have the right to sue?

      I'm not sure why Estoppel By Silence isn't invoked in such cases.

      What is Estoppel by Silence? Let me consult the Great Lazyweb for a good explanation:

      From nolo.com

      Estoppel by Silence is a "type of estoppel that prevents a person from asserting something when she had both the duty and the opportunity to speak up earlier, and her silence put another person
    • Maybe I'm completely off base, but I think I remember hearing that if you don't defend your trade mark, you can lose your rights to it. Patents should be the same way, if you knowingly allow your patent to be infringed apon for 3 years and never so much as mention it to the infringer, why should you have the right to sue?

      I'm not a lawyer, but my wife is an intellectual property lawyer and tried explaining this to me. I'll try to explain it, but I may get some details wrong.

      In fact patent infringers do have
    • IANAL, etc., but the defense is called "laches", and this is my layman's understanding of it.

      There are two things you have to demonstrate in order to use the laches defense:

      1. There was an unreasonable delay between the time the patent holder found out about your infringment and the time he or she filed suit against you.
      2. This delay caused "material prejudice or injury" to you.

      So, to take an example, suppose that you're getting into the business of manufacturing widgets, and Acme Corp. sees your press r

  • by Caspian (99221) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:47AM (#14687087)
    Christ. Look at the earthshaking technologies that were invented/discovered and/or popularized in the interval from roughly 1860 to 1960: Radio, the telephone, the television, the laser, nuclear fission, the automobile, the airplane, the rocket, the microwave oven, the computer...

    Now look at what we've achieved since then. Uhhh..... let's see. Um. PDAs? ... Blackberries? ... Cell phones? (read: radio + telephone)... umm ... well, our computers are smaller now, and faster?...

    I cannot help but think that the shift away from R&D, the overreliance on patents like this story, and the constant threat of being sued/bought out by megacorps have combined to slow the pace of human technological development.

    The new business model seems to be "obtain patent on a niggling detail of a process or device; sue over patent; profit!". Back in the day, the business model was "Research fascinating new things; patent them; bring them to market; profit." I'm all for a return to the old model...
    • by thefirelane (586885) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:59AM (#14687191)
      Now look at what we've achieved since then. Uhhh..... let's see. Um. PDAs? ... Blackberries? ... Cell phones? (read: radio + telephone)... umm ... well, our computers are smaller now, and faster?...

      ummm... did you miss everything that has happened in biology and DNA lately? Electronics has just moved into the incremental consumer phase, instead of being a strict labratory science. Things like DNA sequencing, stem cells, cloning, nano-technology, and genetic engineering are where the real advancements are.
      • ummm... did you miss everything that has happened in biology and DNA lately? Electronics has just moved into the incremental consumer phase, instead of being a strict labratory science. Things like DNA sequencing, stem cells, cloning, nano-technology, and genetic engineering are where the real advancements are.

        That's nice. So where's the cure to HIV? To cancer? To the common cold? Where's the organ cloning plant? Where's the "rewrite the genes of your choice" service? Where's the designer babies shop? Whe

        • by HuguesT (84078) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:50AM (#14687650)
          In the last 40 years or so, average survival rates of all cancers have grown from about 25% to about 60%. Some cancers have an over 90% survival rate.

          I leave you to decide whether this constitutes progress.

          Progress in the biological sciences is enormous and constant, but the translation from scientific understanding to treatment & prevention is slow, because it needs to be as close to 100% safe as possible. There are about half a dozen known treatments against the HIV virus that work on monkeys and cats, but few would dare try them in their own bodies.

          Compared to biology, electronics is so simple that it is child's play.
        • That's nice. So where's the cure to HIV? To cancer?

          If you had any idea how much progress has been made in medical science in the past 15 years you wouldn't push these points. We've gone from knowing absolutely nothing about how some of these pathologies come about, to understanding the exact molecular mechanisms. Being able to do something about it (without killing the patient) is another story.

          In the meantime, feel free to enjoy the fact that the mortality of yo
      • DNA sequencing, stem cell research, cloning, nano-tech, and genetic engineering.. all patented.

        We can't teach you anything about these topics unless you sign this NDA right here.

        If you want to work in these fields go out and rediscover it for yourself, then hire a patent attorney before selling anything.

        Thanks,
        The American Way of Life.
    • by Caspian (99221) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:03AM (#14687213)
      Before you start in on your rose-tinted "but we have Teh Intarweb now, and computers are so cheap thanks to the Free Market(TM)" drek...

      Yeah? And? Where are the flying cars we were all supposed to have? Where's our fusion energy? (Other than that big fiery lamp out in the Big Room) Where's our moonbase? Where's our Mars colony? Where's my fucking robot sex toy?

      We'd have all of this shit by now if humanity were focused more on developing as a species and less on making money with the least possible effort. We need more cooperation as a species-- and note that "cooperation" and "competition" aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. During the Space Race, broad swaths of humanity came together and cooperated to compete-- the West versus the soviet East. What did we accomplish? We went from the first suborbital flight to landing on the fucking moon in less than a decade.

      THAT is what humanity can do when its priorities are aligned properly.

      Now, it's Megacorp A versus Megacorp B versus Megacorp C, and they're all so busy playing chess with patents and lawsuits, they can't be bothered to innovate. It's fucking sickening.
      • Where's our fusion energy?

        There are a lot of things holding up fusion being a viable energy source, but trust me, patents are not one of them.

        I'm not arguing against your main argument, but if you truly think that we don't have working fusion because of patents you need to do more research.
    • Sorry, but the new paradigm is designed to exclude the individual inventor from profiting.

      Don't worry, this won't last long because the revolution is imminent.

      We (the people of the world) are all simply going to ignore IP law. And we'll share our knowledge over the Internet. With technology designed and manufactured IN YOUR FACE.

      The world is changing, either get with it or get left behind.

    • To be fair, you should compare equivalent stretches of time; 1960 was 46 years ago, so look at 1860-1906, and you'll see that more than half your list goes away. And some of the changes that have taken place since 1960 are, I think, just as important -- as far as computers go, they're so much smaller and faster (and, just as importantly, cheaper) than I think you're looking at a difference in kind, not just degree.

      But overall, I agree with you. The suits have thoroughly bought into, and convinced judges a
    • You really need to read up on the history of that period where IP is concerned.

      The battles were far bigger and far bloodier over pants in the 1800s than they are now. The innovations you mentioned were *obvious* to many people of the time. It was common that patent applications on a new product would beat a competitor by hours. Lawsuits were rampant, technologies crushed far more often than now.

      Particularly read up on the development of the telegraph and electric systems in the US. Those were both especiall
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:48AM (#14687100)
    ...so why did it take AT&T this long to argue that someone is violating one of its patents?
    Isn't there something fishy about this?
    Or is suing 'late in the game' now the norm for patent lawyers?
    • by meringuoid (568297) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:51AM (#14687126)
      Or is suing 'late in the game' now the norm for patent lawyers?

      Sue early: people say 'Ah, well we'll just use some other video codec, then.'

      Sue late: people say 'Shit, we've committed our whole business to this technology. Better pay up.'

      There's more profit to be had this way, which is why it's done like this. What, you expected some ethical or technical reason?

      • There's more profit to be had this way, which is why it's done like this. What, you expected some ethical or technical reason?

        Good point...now to find out who I can sue to make a quick buck.
        Maybe that kid in 9th grade who always copied the answers from my tests?
        I hear he is a really kick-ass scientist now.
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:49AM (#14687104)

    Some information on Dirac can be found here [sourceforge.net] and here (PDF warning) [bbc.co.uk].
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Now that the Unisys LZW patent has expired ;)
  • Next gen codecs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lisaparratt (752068) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:49AM (#14687110)
    I guess Dirac [sourceforge.net]'s time has come.
    • Re:Next gen codecs (Score:3, Informative)

      by WWWWolf (2428)

      Or rather, Theora's [theora.org] time, which not only is actually implemented in multiple popular cross-platform player softwares (VLC, RealPlayer) and has a nice converter (ffmpeg2theora), it's also - hopefully - proven to be free of patent issues. =)

      • Re:Next gen codecs (Score:3, Informative)

        by lisaparratt (752068)
        Unfortunately, though, it's not really a next generation codec. The underlying algorithms are all rather aged. Admittedly, so are MPEG-4s, but it'd be better for the open source movement to put their weight behind something both free and with a real future, rather than something already showing it's wrinkles. With it's large archive of content, and it's fingers in the DVB pies, the BBC is in an excellent position to push Dirac to the forefront.
    • from the dirac faq [sourceforge.net]:

      When will Dirac be ready?

      We hope to get to beta by the end of 2005. This means fixing the bitstream spec and getting the code to conform to it.



      indeed it would seem that it's time has come.
  • ~sigh~ (Score:2, Insightful)

    You know, the more and more I read stuff like this, the more and more I think that open source, general public liscense is the way to go.
    • You know, I'm starting to agree with that sentiment. I never seriously considered Ogg or anything like that before but I will start to do so.

      Time to take technology out of the hands of corporations and give it back to the inventors :)

      -WS
    • That's how JPEG was introduced - an open and royalty-free graphics format. It still didn't help keep the patent hounds [wikipedia.org] at bay.
    • GPL doesn't protect software authors from patents. GPL doesn't prevent RedHat from creating a submarine patent and not telling anyone about it until a number of companies have based their business strategy around it.
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:54AM (#14687150)
    We moved from a manufacturing based economy to a "service" based economy.

    Now it's lovely that we are moving on from even that, and can earn money by letting others do the hard work and implementation while we can sit at the patent office all day and submit vague, obtuse applications (that read like and are about as specific as Nostradamus predictions, he predicted Hister you know!) to gain a monopoly on "methods", "software", etcetera all in the name of "innovation" (because without patent, there wouldn't be any you know. Civilization started when Romulus and Remus instituted the first patent office.....)

    A great time to be an American. It's also nice we are exporting this type of mentality to the rest of the world too.
  • Perhaps I am confusing my types of Intellectual Property, but don't you have to show that you are actively defending your IP, or you give up your rights to it? TFA didn't list the patents involved or the dates they were granted, but if violators have to pay triple damages for 'willful' disregard, shouldn't the patent owners lose rights to damages if they willfully allow infringement until they know that the other companies are over a barrel?

    (Yes, I know this is /. and software/algorithm patents are eeee

    • by yeremein (678037) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:06AM (#14687237)
      Perhaps I am confusing my types of Intellectual Property, but don't you have to show that you are actively defending your IP, or you give up your rights to it?

      You are. Trademarks must be defended, but patents don't have to be.
    • That's the problem--trademarks must be defended; patents have no such requirement. I do remember that on Groklaw the principle of laches was applied to 30-year-old patents, rendering them "untimely" but 30 years is a loooooooooong time. It means UNIX in its earlier forms must have done it. (The patent in question was extended a few times.) This is why "IP" as a term is grossly inaccurate--it's like saying mangoes, apples, and tomatoes are part of a "fruit basket." All are technically fruit but you don'
    • You're thinking of Trademarks. Patents don't work that way, but they damn well should.

      If a company knows it has a case - against anyone at all - and doesn't pursue it within a reasonable timescale, then that should be a defence for anyone and everyone else.

      (My 2p)

      Justin.
  • Patent warfare (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lisaparratt (752068) on Friday February 10, 2006 @09:58AM (#14687184)
    Surely Apple's been in the game long enough that they've got something in their IP portfolio to sting AT&T with, and thus enter a cross licensing deal, rather than licensing it straight out?
  • the worst part is.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Intangion (816356)
    when these big companies pay up to some little patent troll it just gives the troll more ammo to use against other companies, if NO one paid they should hopefully quickly run out of money for all the lawsuits, but the more money they get the more lawyers the more people they can sue ;(
    • Problem is AT&T is what in the top 5 largest companies in the US? I'm sure they can hire a staff of ambulance chasers just to handle this one issue. If they are on staff, then no 30% legal settlement for them - just a bonus for each company they get to fork over cash.
      Also, I do not believe there is an enforcement provision in the Patent system - although yes there is on trademarks - if you let people use them, you are seen as having allowed them to fall into public domain.
      IINAL but I think that what s
  • r! Seriously this is how the elderly get things done.
  • by stunt_penguin (906223) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:15AM (#14687309)
    If a company is going to force this kind of licensing patent issue on another company, then they should be obliged to issue this kind of legal action within a number (say 90? 120?) days of first learning about any infringement. This company has clearly waited until MPEG-4 is hugely popular, having been implemented in popular technologies like Qucktime, the PSP, in HD DVD codecs (I believe in the form of H.264), Nero Digital and Xvid..........

    If a company with any patent rights had asserted its right in the first place, then maybe they would be in the right here, but to allow a technology to grow for a number of years and then assert your claim to large amounts of money is immoral and should be illegal.

    What if a company like Apple submits and then counter-sue the company for deliberately allowing a free lunch then asserting it's patent, causing financial and legal pain to Apple et. Al.

    It's like a bar giving out water to customers and then trying to back-charge for it when they're halfway through the evening, under threat of kicking them out of the bar otherwise.
  • SBC (Score:4, Informative)

    by chill (34294) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:17AM (#14687338) Journal
    Please note that AT&T here really means SBC. SBC purchased AT&T not too long ago but kept the AT&T name. It is run by the same cocksucker who thinks Google, Yahoo and other content providers are getting a "free ride" on his infrastructure and wants to charge them for the right to travel his wires -- peering be damned.

      -Charles
  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:19AM (#14687361) Homepage Journal
    Either its the article or AT&T, but all I could glimmer from the article is that AT&T hold the patent on some underlying technology of MPEG-4? What is this mysterious 'underlying technology'? It would be nice if there were more specifcs, but until I see it just sounds like FUD.
    • I wonder what the patent is on? Transport stream? Main/High profile (requires a bunch of patent licenses via MPEG-LA already), or Baseline (which was supposed to be license-free, but didn't end up that way)? MPEG4-SP, ASP, or AVC (H..264)? Audio? (Not too likely.)

  • by RocketJeff (46275) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:21AM (#14687383) Homepage
    First, the article stares that the original letter about this was sent back in December of 2005 - this is before the merger/rename was completed. This means that we can't blame SBC (now renamed to AT&T) for starting this.

    OTOH, knowing how the 'new' AT&T (aka SBC) has handled things before, I don't think there is any hope of them just letting this go and ignoring that they have the patent. If anything, they now have more money and lawyers to persue other companies.
  • AT&T or SBC? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Verteiron (224042) on Friday February 10, 2006 @10:26AM (#14687423) Homepage
    Didn't SBC recent buy AT&T? SBC has pursued bizarre patent claims like this before, I wonder how much of this is SBC looking through AT&T's patent portfolio and thinking, "Hmmmm...."

    If I'm right we can expect a lot more of these from "AT&T" in the near future.
  • I will admit, patent knowledge is not something I can claim as a strong point, but a little bit of googling as to AT&T's patent on the coding of MPEG-4 brought up a lot of FAQs about MPEG-4, but not a lot of mention about AT&T. In fact, the only thing I can find relating AT&T to MPEG-4, after digging through a couple pages on Google, is that AT&T now is claiming a patent. Why isn't AT&T more prominently mentioned in a lot of these FAQs on MPEG-4 (one specifically having a section dedic
  • Patent Number (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ElNonoMasa (820089)
    Anyone?
  • by ElitistWhiner (79961) on Friday February 10, 2006 @01:39PM (#14689164) Journal
    Apple (AAPL) logo has one bite. ATT MPEG-4 license would take a second bite. Steve Jobs will abstract technology layers than pay royalty and redesign his logo.
    Apple's Quartz avoids Adobe's Postscript license fee. iPod music is about to be fully abstracted. ATT will be left to sell MPEG-4 versions of pop music on their own damn network if they want a royalty cut. Jobs isn't going to let their fee ride over his iTunes service for free. Fees work both ways...SBC

I have never seen anything fill up a vacuum so fast and still suck. -- Rob Pike, on X.

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