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Jury Rules That H.264 is Not Patented 111

Posted by Zonk
from the yay-for-tivos-i-mean-broadcom dept.
Dr Kool, PhD writes "According to Bloomberg, a jury ruled against Qualcomm in their patent lawsuit against Broadcom. Qualcomm had sought $8.3 million in damages for patent infringement stemming from Broadcom's H.264 encoder/decoder chips. From the article: 'The patents, covering a way to compress high-definition video, are unenforceable in part because Qualcomm withheld information from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, jurors in San Diego said today after deliberating less than six hours.' This ruling clears the way for H.264 to become a widely adopted open standard."
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Jury Rules That H.264 is Not Patented

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  • Aren't there already existing [open] developments that surpass H.264 already ?
    • Not really (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Saturday January 27, 2007 @07:38AM (#17782378) Journal
      The only truly, intentionally open standard I know of is Theora, and I really haven't heard much about it.

      For that matter, I haven't heard any measurements lately of AAC vs Vorbis, but it seems to me that unless Vorbis is actually better, the best way to encode a video would be h.264+aac, probably wrapped in ogm or mkv, but could also work as avi or mov.

      Of course, I often just keep the original DVD stream around, which means -- what -- mpeg2+aac?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        DVD are usually something like Mpeg2 + Ac3 for surround sound support or Mpeg2 + raw PCM (uncompressed audio) for stereo. Also you may have some with mp3 compression.

        No AAC, which is Apple's baby.

        The reason you use something like H.264 is because it offers much higher compression with similar visual quality as mpeg2. So you can take a DVD movie and compress it down to a third of it's original size (or more) and still keep enough quality that the difference is unnoticable.

        This is important for doing things l
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          FYI, AAC is Dolby, Fraunhofer (FhG), AT&T, Sony and Nokia's baby.

          RealNetworks, Apple and Nero (among others) just took a license on this existing (MPEG4, ISO/IEC: 13818-7) standard and built their own encoder implementations.
          • by baadger (764884)
            Nero Recode also does H.264/MPEG-4 AVC encoding but Ahead license all their encoder tech from someone else anyway.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by zotz (3951)
          "Icecast has had Theora support for a while now."

          It has been a while since I messed with it, but I think I had Theora streaming with peercast as well.

          For those that don't know, peercast does peer to peer streaming.

          http://www.peercast.org/ [peercast.org]

          all the best,

          drew
        • I must've gotten those confused for years without noticing. Thanks for pointing that out.

          Still, there you go. Mostly some very good advice, although I imagine that vorbis is really acceptable. I use flac for my music, but that's mostly because I don't like to lose more quality than I have to by transcoding, and you never know when I might buy something like an iPod and have to transcode -- flac->aac is better than, say, vorbis->aac. And also because my music collection is small enough that that works.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Senjutsu (614542)

          No AAC, which is Apple's baby.
          AAC is the Moving Pictures Experts Group's baby. You might know some of their other kids: MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, MP3...? In the same way that mp3 is the audio layer (layer 3) of an MPEG1 file, AAC is the audio layer of an MPEG4 file. It was created by an industry group that Apple wasn't even involved in. They adopted its use simply because of what it is; a better mp3.
        • Also for HD content the H.264 stuff is still going to be like 20 gigs or more. In mpeg2 form it would be massive and you'd have a hard time keeping up with the bitrates nessicary to play it even at LAN speeds. Also I am told that mpeg2 has several undesirable characteristics at very high resolution when it comes to quality and such.

          One quibble: MPEG-2 HD content runs just fine on modern fast ethernet LANs. Better codecs do better, of course.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        the best way to encode a video would be h.264+aac, probably wrapped in ogm or mkv, but could also work as avi or mov

        Dear God No. h.264 and AAC are MPEG-4. For the love of all that is good and holy please use MP4 as the container.

        • by tepples (727027)

          h.264 and AAC are MPEG-4. For the love of all that is good and holy please use MP4 as the container.

          Unless the ruling covers H.264 but does not cover the MPEG-4 container. But isn't MOV close enough to the capabilities of the MPEG-4 container?

        • by jZnat (793348) * on Saturday January 27, 2007 @01:48PM (#17784114) Homepage Journal
          It's perfectly fine to use Matroska, especially when you want to include SSA subtitles [wikipedia.org] (very common in anime releases) or SRT subtitles [wikipedia.org] (also common with anime due to being able to be muxed in an OGM container). Sure, GPAC (MP4Box et al.) can automatically convert SRT subtitles to Timed Text (ISO/IEC 14496-17) [wikipedia.org], but that's not always desired (SSA subtitles can be styled in many different ways; TT cannot).

          Also, you can't mux [Ogg] Vorbis [vorbis.com] in an MP4 container (I believe you can do that in a MOV/QuickTime container, however; also, using the private data stream hack doesn't count), and Vorbis can match, better, or come close to (dependent on source material) the quality of AAC at the same bitrates. Also, if H.264 (ISO/IEC 14496-10 for those who care) is truly now a public domain standard, then it would be far more desirable to mux H.264 video with Vorbis audio as both are open, unencumbered standards. It would also be good to do this in Matroska as that is also an open, unencumbered standard (QuickTime's file format may or may not be patented, but I'd guess it is).

          Now I'd definitely recommend using MP4 if everything you're muxing is part of the MPEG-4 (ISO/IEC 14496) standard (e.g. H.264 (or even DivX/Xvid), AAC, TT) as that would make most sense, but beware the limitations of the MP4 container format. The "subtle differences" between MP4 and QuickTime/MOV are the codecs supported.
          • Why wouldn't you recommend MPEG-PS or MPEG-TS, given that the former is the only format supported by DVD and HD-DVD and the latter the only format supported by DVB and Bluray? At least use "for internet distribution".
          • when you want to include SSA subtitles (very common in anime releases)

            Come on, there's one thing everyone knows. No matter how horribly an anime kiddy is doing at school, no matter how dumb-as-dogshit they are at fundamentals of grammar and language, you can count on them being perfectly fluent in modern slang Japanese, especially when it comes to something KAWAIII!!!!

          • by willy_me (212994)

            (QuickTime's file format may or may not be patented, but I'd guess it is).

            I'm sure the file format is patented, but it's also an open format. They offer licenses to anyone who wants to use it. The license is a simple - "We're not liable for damages..." type of license. It's a whole 8 page PDF and is available here [apple.com]. I should also note that Apple has some open source projects that utilize this standard. Most notably, the quicktime streaming server. The FFmpeg project also supports the .mov file format

      • Re:Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RalphBNumbers (655475) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @10:34AM (#17782944)
        the best way to encode a video would be h.264+aac, probably wrapped in ogm or mkv, but could also work as avi or mov. .ogm? .mkv? .avi? .mov?
        So basically you'll use anything *but* the actual standard MPEG-4 container that's designed to carry h264/aac streams? What's wrong with .mp4?

        This is a somewhat separate rant and not really directed at the parent, but it seems like between pirates sticking with their habitual use of Xvid/DivX in avi, and OSS fanatics refusing to use anything non-OSS in favor of Theora in .ogg or .mkv, the world's geeks are actually doing more to set back standardization of digital video than big companies and their DRM. How's that for a turnaround from the audio world where geeks chose mp3 and industry followed!

        MPEG-4 standards, specifically h264/aac streams in an .mp4 container, provide the best quality and functionality you can get today (.mkv is nice but it doesn't do anything .mp4 couldn't with the right tools, and neither Xvid/DivX or Theora can touch h264's quality/bitrate), and they are completely standardized and free to use for distributions of up to 100,000 codecs per year afaik.

        If we'd all pick up the MPEG-4 stack the way we all standardized on .mp3s, then the digital video world would get a lot simpler.

        Imagine a world where every camcorder, or DVD player, or computer, or PMP, or digital camera, or cell phone, or what not, could record and play back in the same interoperable high quality/bitrate video format with no special file conversions or re-encoding, just like all of those devices support .mp3 today...
        • Can I write a Free (or Open Source... whatever) and legal MPEG-4 decoder?

          If it becomes popular to a point that it gets more than 100,000 downloads in a year, am I liable for paying royalties?

          • Re:Not really (Score:4, Interesting)

            by RalphBNumbers (655475) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @11:15AM (#17783158)
            Well, IANAL, but looking at the summary of the AVC license here [mpegla.com], specifically the portion quoted below, it seems like royalties are only required to be paid by "end product manufacturers". You could certainly argue that source code is not the end product, and thus you could distribute it without limit. And if you want to distribute object code as well, the only limit would be that no single person who builds it should distribute more than 100,000 compiled copies unless they want to pay royalties.
            I seem to recall that some existing OSS MPEG-4 related projects distribute source code only for that sort of reason.

            Royalties to be paid by end product manufacturers for an encoder, a decoder or both ("unit") begin at US $0.20 per unit after the first 100,000 units each year. There are no royalties on the first 100,000 units each year. Above 5 million units per year, the royalty is US $0.10 per unit.
            • Re:Not really (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @11:59AM (#17783414)
              I seem to recall that some existing OSS MPEG-4 related projects distribute source code only for that sort of reason.

              They distribute source code because the courts (in the USA at least) have ruled that source code is speech, as in "freedom of" and binaries are not. Thus they are a lot better protected from claims of patent infringment if they stay away from the binaries.
        • It's got a higher quality/bitrate, but it's much more processor intensive to decode, which translates directly to battery power. Case in point: playing video on an iPod (which only supports h264) will drain the battery in an hour or two, where as DivX video on a Creative player will give you 5-6 hours on a similar battery.

          If you're optimizing for space, sure, h264 is great. However, most PMPs are hard drive based, and thus have lots of space to spare.
          • Actually, you're wrong, the iPod supports plain old MPEG-4 simple profile (which is basically a subset of modern ASP divx), not just h264.
            So, if you really want to compare DivX and h264 playback power consumption, you should do it on the same device with the same battery; since comparing apples to oranges means nothing.

            I would actually be interested in seeing such a comparison, if anyone watching has a iPod /w video and a couple of days to kill watching the same videos encoded at the same resolution in two
        • by Doc Ruby (173196)
          What about H.264 vs GSM and G.729, in terms of MIPS:Kbps and quality at various Kbps? GSM is $freePL, but not such great quality at 8-10Kbps, while G.279 is pretty high quality, but $patented (even when GPL).
          • by LarsG (31008)
            H.264 is a video codec and GSM and G.729 are audio codecs, so that's apples and oranges (or would that be eyes and ears?)
        • One should note that, un like H.264, AAC is heavily patented. So, to stay on topic (unencumbered high-quality AV technologies) one may prefer use H.264 with Vorbis audio and Matroska container.
        • What's wrong with .mp4?

          Off the top of my head I can think of a very good reason why we shouldn't call it MP4. Some non-tech saavy person asks a Best Buy sales rep (who doesn't know what it is) what it is [so he makes something up] and I bet you he'd say something like "oh it's kindof like MP3 but newer and better. It supports 1080p HD-Audio" [customer nods as if to let you think that they understand].

          In this case having a name that doesn't make you think of a common audio compression standard would be helpful.

          • MP4 is like MP3 but newer and better. The same people that made MP3 made MP4 as the successor to MP3.
          • by jZnat (793348) *
            Rename a .m4a file to .mp4, and notice how it still works perfectly fine. .m4a is just an alias for .mp4 since .mp4 can contain audio, video, textual (subtitles), and other types of content, and any mix of said content types.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Srin Tuar (147269)
          There is no reason to avoid matroska containers and vorbis audio streams.
          Why let the patent mongers lead us around by the nose?

          Instead, once a free replacement is available for h.264, then we'll have a complete solution that the industry can follow. (or if the patents on it are ruled invalid)

          You seem to think that the patent terms are "reasonable" which shows your shortsightedness on this issue.
        • It's not just the pirates. I have a DVD player that says it supports MPEG-4, but it doesn't actually do so. It merely supports MPEG-4 codecs in AVI files.

          Similarly, those asshats at Sony couldn't be bothered to implement MPEG-4 containers, so they invented "AVCHD", which is MPEG-4 codecs in an MPEG-2 container.
          • by pip1 (1054852)
            ofcourse people keep using the MPEG-4 term to refer to a single codec when in fact its a general term that in the case of the video, YOU should be using eather ASP (aka Mpeg-4 Part2) OR AVC (aka Mpeg-4 part 10) to qualify the codec.

            why is it everyone even here were you should know better, are still using generic MPEG-4 instead of the right terms.

            after all AVC/AAC makes it clear and common sense, rather than H.264/ACC and MPeg-4/AAC makes no sense at all as is it the old codec _ASP_ or the far better and new
            • by pip1 (1054852)
              sorry that should be. after all AVC/AAC makes it clear and common sense, rather than H.264/AAC and MPeg-4/AAC makes no sense at all, as is it the old codec ASP or the far better and newer AVC (with lossless options, that ASP does NOT) your average user is refering to ?.
        • by bcrowell (177657)
          and they are completely standardized and free to use for distributions of up to 100,000 codecs per year afaik.
          Er, that's kind of a problem, isn't it? I don't know whether the ffmpeg library currently gets more than 100,000 downloads a year, but the instant it does, it looks to me like they need to start paying royalties of 20 cents per download. That's not exactly a satisfactory basis for an OSS video infrastructure. The authors of the ffmpeg library may not be worried about getting sued, but, e.g., Debia
        • First off as an Encoder the encoding tools used to be TERRIBLE! Terrible! Like manually confguring hundreds of settings for each rip I did. (Chinese movies not available through mainstream distribution methods)...

          Xvid used to require 2 passes at about 8-9 hours each (on my medium speced pc)... So two days to do an encode... Not cool.

          Then they came out with a new version cutting it

          It encodes a 100min 640x480 700MB file in 4 hours, they got there first, like MP3 did and it seems open, I don't understa
        • by evilviper (135110)

          So basically you'll use anything *but* the actual standard MPEG-4 container that's designed to carry h264/aac streams?

          the MP4 container IS "mov" to begin with, so he did mention it.

          MPEG-4 standards, specifically h264/aac streams in an .mp4 container, provide the best quality and functionality you can get today

          And the most ridiculously high CPU requirements.

          The vast majority of systems out there can't handle h.264 playback in high def (1920x1080), and older systems can't even handle D1 (720x480).

          If you wan

          • If you're talking about something tiny -- suppose YouTube switched over to mpeg4 -- then the CPU requirements become pretty irrelevant compared to other concerns. (YouTube via Flash uses 50% of my CPU, the same video via mplayer/ffmpeg uses 0.3%. I imagine if YouTube switched to h.264 in .mov format (thus insisting on QuickTime), you'd have two immediate results: Everyone and their dog would have QuickTime, and it would also use _less_ CPU (in the browser) and look _better_ than it does now.)

            If you're talki
            • by evilviper (135110)

              I imagine if YouTube switched to h.264 in .mov format (thus insisting on QuickTime), you'd have two immediate results: Everyone and their dog would have QuickTime, and it would also use _less_ CPU (in the browser) and look _better_ than it does now.)

              I can agree with that. Yes, there are some (many?) specific cases where h.264 is more than worth the drawbacks. But as a rule, I still recommend against it for general purpose use.

              If you're talking about something huge -- say, 1080p -- first, generally system

              • Just because someone has a $400 1080i HDTV, doesn't mean the computer they have it hooked-up to is an overclocked quad core Opteron...

                I hardly get any lag with just my old-fashioned single-core 1.8 ghz amd64. But then, I'm not _quite_ running it at its design resolution (my monitor is only 1600x1200...)

                So: Either your facts are dead wrong, or you are exaggerating, and possibly both. The end, unless you bring me something different and specific.

                Second, EVERYONE has a highdef display. LCDs for maybe the p

                • by evilviper (135110)

                  I hardly get any lag with just my old-fashioned single-core 1.8 ghz amd64.

                  I don't believe that for a second. At the very least, you need one of the top processors out now to decode h.264 at 1080 in realtime (at full quality).

                  At the same resolution?

                  Obviously. h.264 uses several times more CPU power than most other codecs out there.

                  The one advantage mpeg gives me is xvmc -- I can offload it to my video card.

                  I believe there's only one (VIA) video chipset that supports MPEG-4 (part 2) XVMC. The rest do no

                  • I don't believe that for a second. At the very least, you need one of the top processors out now to decode h.264 at 1080 in realtime (at full quality).

                    So what can I do, other than subjective testing, to verify that claim?

                    But, it may simply be some dedicated chip for the purpose of mpeg decoding,

                    Yes, that's what XVMC is. What else would it be?

                    I could conceive of it as a program running on a GPU, seeing as the GPU is probably fast enough -- though maybe too specialized -- and any additional processor he

              • by pip1 (1054852)
                <blockquote>And as I pointed out, <b>20% is pretty much in the BEST of circumstances.</b> Don't expect to get that with most encodings. There are some cases where h.264 does worse than codecs like lavc and xvid... That's mainly because the latter are simply more mature.

                Right now, h.264 just doesn't come out as a plus. Sticking to <b>MPEG-4 is a better idea</b> for at least a few years into the future."</blockquote>

                (again with the generic MPEG-4 were you know it should be
          • by yuna49 (905461)
            More and more anime fansubs are appearing in H.264, which my 2.6 GHz Celeron cannot decode in real time. To be able to watch any of these releases, I've had to re-encode them into Xvid (using the awesome mencoder). Whatever quality advantage H.264 has over Xvid, it's not visible to my eyes on my 1280x1024 monitor. To me it's currently just a pain in the neck.

            I am, however, happy to see H.264 will probably remain an unemcumbered format.

        • by loraksus (171574)
          between pirates sticking with their habitual use of Xvid/DivX in avi

          Or maybe because it's the de-facto standard and virtually every application and device out there supports it.
          I got some mkv stuff a while ago and wanted to save a short clip from it.
          Dear God. What.A.Pain.
          Converting it to play on my Archos or other media player? Not a snowballs chance in hell. The one free program I saw crashed and I'm not going to pay $30 for something with no trial version off some website.

          Ditto with mp4. I actually manage
        • by kelnos (564113)
          Unfortunately, licensing AAC on standalone devices costs $0.50 per channel (for decoding; multiply by 2 if you want to do both decoding and encoding). So to distribute decoding software that can handle 5.1 sound, you'd have to pay $3 per unit. It's a little cheaper for PC-based decoders, and the prices drop as volume increases, but that's not really all that relevant. The patent holders haven't gone after open source decoders... yet. But they could do so at any time. Unencumbered formats are important.
      • by profplump (309017)
        H.264 + AAC is, in fact, a standard MPEG-4/AVC video. The wrapper format recommended by ISO/IEC in 14496-12 through 14496-15 is essentially a QuickTime .mov file. There's not reason AVI or Ogg, NUT, or Matroska wrappers wouldn't work also, but the recommended format is closer to .mov than any of those alternatives.
      • by evilviper (135110)

        The only truly, intentionally open standard I know of is Theora, and I really haven't heard much about it.

        MPEG-1 (Video/Audio/Container). Open spec, patent-free, plays absolutely everywhere, etc. Surprisinly good quality too, easily better than VP3, and in most cases, nearly as good as MPEG-4 (better in a few, very specific cases, like excess noise, or high resolution with very low bitrate).

        Besides that, there is Dirac and Snow, which certainly is better than h.264 in many cases, though both are still in

    • Re:Too late ? (Score:4, Informative)

      by CaptainCheese (724779) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @09:18AM (#17782700) Journal
      Unfortunately, a project being open source has no bearing on whether it is patent-encumbered.
  • by rzei (622725) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @07:30AM (#17782354)

    Doesn't this make H.264 only free of the two patents held by Qualcomm? There has to be dozens and dozens of other patents used as AFAIK H.264 is just a profile (AVC) of MPEG-4?

    And afaik again, MPEG-4 is very far from being patent encumbered.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by CryoPenguin (242131)
      [quote]Doesn't this make H.264 only free of the two patents held by Qualcomm?[/quote]
      Right.

      [quote]There has to be dozens and dozens of other patents used as AFAIK H.264 is just a profile (AVC) of MPEG-4?[/quote]
      Yes, there are lots of other patents involved in H.264, but that has nothing to do with the rest of MPEG-4. MPEG-4 is only a name; H.264 would be just as patent encumbered if it didn't share the name with 20 other standards.
    • by kyousum (664287) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @08:51AM (#17782618)

      Doesn't this make H.264 only free of the two patents held by Qualcomm? There has to be dozens and dozens of other patents used as AFAIK H.264 is just a profile (AVC) of MPEG-4?

      True. There are 20 corporations [mpegla.com] participating in the MPEG LA patent portfolio for H.264. Each of these corporations believe they have patents essential to impliment H.264(here's a long list(pdf) [mpegla.com])) and are collecting licensing fees from hundred of licensees [mpegla.com].

    • by novus ordo (843883) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @08:58AM (#17782640) Journal
      That's why organizations like this [mpegla.com] exist. Just because you use it in your home project doesn't mean you will get your pants sued by everybody imaginable. Not every organization is like RIAA or MPAA. However, if you intend to use it in a commercial product you should seriously weigh the advantages of licensing as opposed to litigating. Here are some of MPEG LA's licensing terms [mpegla.com]:

      Royalties to be paid by end product manufacturers for an encoder, a decoder or both ("unit") begin at US $0.20 per unit after the first 100,000 units each year. There are no royalties on the first 100,000 units each year. Above 5 million units per year, the royalty is US $0.10 per unit.

      # Title-by-Title - For AVC video (either on physical media or ordered and paid for on title-by-title basis, e.g., PPV, VOD, or digital download, where viewer determines titles to be viewed or number of viewable titles are otherwise limited), there are no royalties up to 12 minutes in length. For AVC video greater than 12 minutes in length, royalties are the lower of (a) 2% of the price paid to the licensee from licensee's first arms length sale or (b) $0.02 per title. Categories of licensees include (i) replicators of physical media, and (ii) service/content providers (e.g., cable, satellite, video DSL, internet and mobile) of VOD, PPV and electronic downloads to end users.

      # Subscription - For AVC video provided on a subscription basis (not ordered title-by-title), no royalties are payable by a system (satellite, internet, local mobile or local cable franchise) consisting of 100,000 or fewer subscribers in a year. For systems with greater than 100,000 AVC video subscribers, the annual participation fee is $25,000 per year up to 250,000 subscribers, $50,000 per year for greater than 250,000 AVC video subscribers up to 500,000 subscribers, $75,000 per year for greater than 500,000 AVC video subscribers up to 1,000,000 subscribers, and $100,000 per year for greater than 1,000,000 AVC video subscribers.
      Not really unreasonable. Especially when you consider what kind of license terms are offered for content(aka RIAA or MPAA).
      • by mbone (558574) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @10:51AM (#17783022)
        You let out the crucial internet portions

        Over-the-air free broadcast - There are no royalties for over-the-air free broadcast AVC video to markets of 100,000 or fewer households. For over-the-air free broadcast AVC video to markets of greater than 100,000 households, royalties are $10,000 per year per local market service (by a transmitter or transmitter simultaneously with repeaters, e.g., multiple transmitters serving one station).

        Internet broadcast (non-subscription, not title-by-title) - Since this market is still developing, no royalties will be payable for internet broadcast services (non-subscription, not title-by-title) during the initial term of the license (which runs through December 31, 2010) and then shall not exceed the over-the-air free broadcast TV encoding fee during the renewal term.


        So, nothing is owed between now and 2010 on the Intenet. However, the fee could be $ 10K per channel after then; if that's the case, then there will be trouble in 2011. Also note that it is unclear if the VOD is per download (in which case it is quite high) or per title offered (in which case, quite low).
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @09:33AM (#17782748) Homepage Journal
      Yes and no. H.264 isn't 'MPEG-4' it's MPEG-4 AVC. MPEG-4 is just a name the covers many, many codecs. H.264 is just one such codec. Even so, Qualcomm isn't th only patent holder, by far, of H.264/AVC, so the article title is misleading. From MPEG-LA [mpegla.com], which is the primary provider of licenses for H.264 (and lots of other MPEG standards): MPEG LA's AVC Patent Portfolio License currently includes patents owned by DAEWOO Electronics Corporation; Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute; France Télécom, société anonyme; Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Foerderung der angewandten Forschung e.V.; Fujitsu Limited; Hitachi, Ltd.; Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.; LG Electronics Inc.; LSI Logic Corporation; Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.; Microsoft Corporation; Mitsubishi Electric Corporation; Robert Bosch GmbH; Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.; Sedna Patent Services, LLC; Sharp Corporation; Siemens AG; Sony Corporation; The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York; Toshiba Corporation; UB Video Inc.; and Victor Company of Japan, Ltd. MPEG LA's goal is to provide worldwide access to as much AVC essential intellectual property as possible; new Licensors and essential patents may be added at no additional royalty during the current term. Interestingly enough, I don't even see Qualcomm in list. Considering that Qualcomm is the patent holder for CDMA and related technologies, I'm guessing that Qualcomm doesn't even have any patents in the MPEG LA pool, but instead has patented particular implementations of H.264 for use in mobile phone applications.
    • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@co[ ]ll.edu ['rne' in gap]> on Saturday January 27, 2007 @01:09PM (#17783824) Homepage
      "Doesn't this make H.264 only free of the two patents held by Qualcomm?"

      The article doesn't have many details, but since Qualcomm is (or at least used to be) an IC manufacturer among other things and Broadcom's infringing products are ICs, these patents could easily be specific only to a specific method of implementing H.264 in hardware. The MPEG-4 LA covers licensing of patents that cover the algorithm, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are additional patents out there covering specific unique implementations of H.264. i.e. the MPEG4-LA covers the MPEG-4 related patents that you absolutely can't avoid infringing if you create a compliant MPEG-4 implementation, but not necessarily implementation-specific patents.

      It reminds me a lot of the article a few weeks ago where a university was suing some manufacturers of Bluetooth chipsets. Everyone on Slashdot went postal with comments like "How could they patent Bluetooth. Prior art! Prior art!", when in fact the patent was not in ANY way Bluetooth-specific at all but for a method of designing a low-cost RF receiver, a method which a number of Bluetooth silicon manufacturers happened to use in their receiver designs.

      My suspicion (the article doesn't have enough details) is that this court decision has absolutely zero effect on anyone who implements H.264 in software as there is a good chance they weren't even infringing in the first place.
  • by Copperhead (187748) <talbrech@ s p e a k e asy.net> on Saturday January 27, 2007 @07:32AM (#17782360) Homepage
    According to the article, the case is going to the jury, and that "experts" believe that the jury will find against Broadcom, not Qualcomm. I'm not seeing anything that says that the jury has ruled on anything.
  • Ruling? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NekoXP (67564) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @09:47AM (#17782790) Homepage
    Surely a judge rules, not a jury? Juries render verdicts.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Not necessarily.... juries determine the FACTS, judges interpret the LAW and handle procedure (unless you have a bench trial w/o a jury where the judge does it all). These days in civil trial in the US, many (especially in complex cases) juries are given interrogatories as verdict forms. They have to answer a series of questions about facts that the parties disputed in a sort of flow chart. "1) Do you find Mr. X did Y? If so, go to question 2. If not, STOP. 2) Do you find that any portion of Miss Z's i
  • Wrong Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by soulsteal (104635) <soulsteal @ 3 l 337.org> on Saturday January 27, 2007 @11:10AM (#17783124) Homepage
    Article linked is yesterday's announcement that it's going to the Jury. Here's the link [signonsandiego.com] and text of the right article:

    Broadcom sees win for 'H.264' industry
    By Kathryn Balint and David Washburn
    UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITERS

    January 27, 2007

    After just six hours of deliberating, a federal jury found yesterday that chip maker Broadcom did not infringe on two patents held by San Diego-based Qualcomm and determined in two advisory votes that Qualcomm had withheld key information from a standards-making body and the patent office.

    Union-Tribune file photo
    San Diego-based Qualcomm lost a round in federal court yesterday against Southern California chip-making rival Broadcom.
    Qualcomm, which accused Irvine-based Broadcom of infringing on two video-compression patents, was seeking $8.3 million in damages for one of the patents. It did not seek any damages for the other patent.

    The San Diego jury's unanimous decision is a win for manufacturers that comply with the same video-compression standard as that used by Broadcom.

    Qualcomm had argued that one of the two patents at issue was incorporated into the H.264 industry standard used in millions of consumer devices, such as high-definition DVD players and Apple video iPods.

    "We're grateful for the jury's verdict - a resounding victory for Broadcom," said David Rosmann, vice president of intellectual property litigation for the company. "This is a victory not just for Broadcom, but for the entire H.264 industry."

    Qualcomm had little to lose in the case but everything to win.

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    If it had prevailed in its patent-infringement claims, it potentially could have asked courts to ban products that used the industry standard or sought royalty payments from their manufacturers.

    Yesterday's decision does not affect Qualcomm's core business of licensing cell phone technology.

    A loss for Broadcom, however, could have resulted in the ban of some of its chips and could have cost the company possibly hundreds of millions of dollars in future royalty payments.

    The U.S. District Court case was just one of seven lawsuits between the two companies scheduled for trial this year.

    "There certainly was a significant upside potential for us, but it was all upside, no downside," said Qualcomm executive vice president and general counsel Lou Lupin. "For Broadcom, it was all downside, no upside. It probably won't have any impact on us one way or the other. It's just the latest round in a series of battles."

    The speed with which the nine-member jury returned the verdict was stunning, particularly for a case that involved more than 40 hours of testimony and evidence akin to a graduate-level college course on video compression.

    Jury foreman David Ingraham, a Carmel Valley resident and retired vice president of finance and planning for McGraw-Hill, said the quick verdict came about because each jury member entered deliberations with a strong understanding of the evidence.

    "I'm not going to say we were all electrical engineers, because we aren't," Ingraham said. "But people listened carefully to the testimony and took good notes - and it came down overwhelmingly on one side."

    The jury did find that the two Qualcomm patents in question in the case were valid, a loss to Broadcom, which had argued otherwise.

    One of the biggest blows to Qualcomm came in the form of advisory votes, sought by the judge, in which the jury questioned Qualcomm's integrity.

    In one advisory vote, the jury found "clear and convincing evidence" that Qualcomm had withheld previous scientific studies on video-compression from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office when applying for one of the patents in question. The jury's advisory vote said that the patent is "unenforceable due to Qualcomm's inequitable conduct in the patent application process."

    In the second advisory vote, the jury found that Q
  • How does H.264 compare with GSM and G.729 codecs, in terms of performance (CPU MIPS:Kbps) and quality (at different Kbps)? GSM isn't patent encumbered ($free and freePL), but G.729 is patented and licenses cost at least $10 per codec instance (and up, up, up). Is a $freePL H.264 codec a good compromise between the two current favorites, or better/worse than both the current alternatives?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by HeroreV (869368)
      Your post is completely nonsensical.

      From Wikipedia:

      The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM: originally from Groupe Spécial Mobile) is the most popular standard for mobile phones in the world.

      G.729 is an audio data compression algorithm for voice that compresses voice audio in chunks of 10 milliseconds.

      H.264, MPEG-4 Part 10, or AVC (for Advanced Video Coding), is a digital video codec standard that is noted for achieving very high data compression.

      I don't see how H.264 is related to GSM or

    • by NMikkila (409521)
      H.264 (= MPEG-4 Part 10, or AVC) is a video encoding/decoding standard while GSM and G.729 are audio codecs. You could probably use H.264 video and G.729 audio in video conferencencing applications, but personally I'd rather use Speex or Vorbis (when higher quality is needed) for the audio part.

      By the way, FFmpeg's Snow codec could actually be quite useful for video conferencing since it is comparable to H.264 at low bitrates and the video resolution would not need to be that high so that encoding could per
  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Saturday January 27, 2007 @11:17AM (#17783170) Journal
    I have no idea whether Qualcomm's idea rose to the ideal patent standard but I'd bet dollars to donuts the jury didn't either. Given the time constraints, they can't possibly learn enough to understand the technology to determine whether Qualcomm had a lousy patent or Broadcom was infringing. Patent enforcement decisions make about as much sense as flipping a coin.

    Patents are designed by and implemented by attorneys. They're the beneficiaries of this system, not the public nor the inventor. The inventors and public just end up getting screwed.
  • Did anyone notice that one of the spokesmen for the companies had the title of Vice-President for Intellectual Property Litigation? I don't know that I want to do away with software patents altogether (maybe, I'm not sure), but it bothers me when a company has a department, evidently important enough to be headed by a vice president, dedicated to litigation. Here's another vote for some serious reform in the patent system.
  • What Qualcomm Wants (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Qualcomm wants to control video on mobile devices.
    http://www.qualcomm.com/mediaflo/index.shtml [qualcomm.com]

    That's why they spent so much time and money ..er..'convincing' regulators
    to allow them to take over part of the spectrum for mobile video transmission.
    Verizon and other carriers want this so they can move video off of their
    digital voice lines and on to something parallel with a different infrastructure.
    An infrastructure that, no doubt, the carriers will recieve loads of federal funding
    to complete (even though it w
  • The jury said the patents are valid, just not enforceable.
  • Now where is a reasonable video chat program that takes advantage of it? Us windows kids gotta be jealous of iChat for how much longer? Is Ekiga ever going to come out gtk?

    rhY

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