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Google Graphics Patents United States Your Rights Online

MPEG LA Says 12 Parties Have Essential WebM Patents 136

Posted by Soulskill
from the dirty-dozen dept.
suraj.sun tips this report from the H Online: "The hopes that the VP8 codec at the heart of Google's open source WebM video standard would remain unchallenged in the patent arena are diminishing after the MPEG LA says 12 parties hold patents that its evaluators consider essential to the codec. ... No VP8 patent pool has been formed yet; the MPEG LA says it met with the patent holders in late June and is 'continuing to facilitate that discussion' but the decision to form a pool is up to the patent holders. ... Google responded to the MPEG LA's interview saying it is 'firmly committed to the project and establishing an open codec for HTML5 video' and noting the April launch of the WebM CCL, a community cross-licencing agreement for essential WebM related patents."
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MPEG LA Says 12 Parties Have Essential WebM Patents

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 29, 2011 @05:24PM (#36928442)

    The parties involved are as yet unnamed and MPEG LA told patent analyst Florian Mueller that "confidentiality precludes [MPEG LA] from disclosing the identity of the owners".

    This smells like more bullshit extortion.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 29, 2011 @05:28PM (#36928482)

    Google has zero credibility when it comes to promises of "open standards." They've hung their entire Android ecosystem out to dry and abandoned its partners to fend for themselves against patent holders.

    WebM is most likely toxic and has an uncertain future. Google knows this and that is why they don't offer any type of indemnification to parties who choose to bet on the codec.

    This "Google says it's open, therefore it's open" nonsense has to end.

  • by pavon (30274) on Friday July 29, 2011 @05:32PM (#36928540)

    A professional troll, who keeps posting hatchet-jobs stories about Google/Android only to have them promptly rebuffed.

  • by arose (644256) on Friday July 29, 2011 @05:48PM (#36928712)
    That's what Google did, they bought On2 (who had been making codecs for 10 years or so without getting sued). I'll believe it when a court rules that a patent actually applies, there is too much for MPEG LA to gain from FUDing VP8 and almost nothing from having an actual patent pool.
  • by Qzukk (229616) on Friday July 29, 2011 @06:24PM (#36929010) Journal

    that is why they don't offer any type of indemnification to parties who choose to bet on the codec.

    No, they don't offer any type of indemnification because patent trolls file bullshit patents like claiming a "buy now" icon in your app infringes on a patent regarding two-way customer feedback. At this rate, whoever has that patent on amusing a cat with a laser pointer has a solid case against WebM. It's impossible to defend against all the bullshit.

    If the patent system wants to continue down this road, then the patent laws need to be revised that if anyone brings a patent case against someone, and they're found to not infringe on the patent, the patent holder owes double the defense's court fees and lawyer costs. Triple if the plaintiff tries to bail out after a Markman Hearing told them their patent doesn't mean what they want it to mean, and there's no way in hell that it's being infringed on.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 29, 2011 @06:31PM (#36929080)

    There's a high-stakes poker game being played here. They don't want to show their hand too early.

    If they don't go after WebM, then eventually the H264 licensing falls apart. If they do go after WebM, there will be a challenge to the patents, and they potentially lose everything. So there's some delay and some bluffing going on.

  • New rule (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bengie (1121981) on Friday July 29, 2011 @06:36PM (#36929108)

    They should make a new rule. If you don't immediately(reasonable amount of time, 1-2 months?) sue another company once you found out they've made a product based on your patent, you give up any rights to said patent.

    You shouldn't be able to sit on it and wait for it to be more "lucrative" to sue.

  • by steveha (103154) on Friday July 29, 2011 @06:50PM (#36929186) Homepage

    who is surprised that WebM steps all over patents associated with h.264

    Objection. The correct sentence here is "who is surprised that MPEG-LA claims that WebM steps all over patents controlled by MPEG-LA".

    Given that WebM was specifically designed to not infringe any patents, I for one would be very surprised if it "steps all over" a large number of patents.

    Sadly, I would not be surprised if Google lost a lawsuit over some patent that someone claims covers WebM. But that's because there are so many patents, and stuff happens in lawsuits.

    The one and only argument I have ever seen in favor of WebM is that it doesn't have licensing restrictions.

    Isn't that enough?

    The basic pitch for WebM is "not as good as H.264, but you are free to use it". If you need the best possible video encoder and are willing to abide the the licensing restrictions and fee schedules of H.264, you use H.264. If you are Debian, and you only ship free software that isn't patent-encumbered, you ship WebM and not H.264. This isn't rocket surgery.

    From a code point of view h.264 is at least as open source seeing as many of the best tools and compressors are (and always have been) open and in many cases free. WebM doesn't do things significantly different from a technical point of view or an implementation point of view. It is substantially the same technology.

    Your point about H.264 being available in open source is accurate, but pointless. Your second point is correct if we agree that the word "substantially" covers a lot of differences. The differences make H.264 the better encoder.

    So if you have two projects that are effectively identical, but one has licensing restrictions on some streaming content and the other doesn't. Why would patents that cover one not cover the other?

    Because patents aren't judged by this "substantially" word you used. Patents cover specific things. On2 seems to have studied patents to figure out what they couldn't do, and found ways to do things that work almost as well without being covered by the patents.

    The dangers here are that On2 overlooked a patent or otherwise made a mistake; or that a court would rule that On2 skated too close to the line. There is no danger that a court will say "WebM is substantially doing the same thing as H.264, so all the H.264 patents apply." You didn't really mean to imply the situation was that simple, did you?

    This stuff is like the JPG and GIF patents. Made zero real world impact and by the time everyone was finished arguing over them the patents had already expired.

    There is one major difference: the patents on H.264 are not just about to expire. I did a quick Google search and found that you would have to wait until 2025 to use H.264 for free.

    If you use a patented format, you have to get a patent license. The owners of the patent license get to dictate the terms of the license.

    Google, who owns and runs YouTube, doesn't want to build its business around H.264, because then when it is time to renew the licenses, the terms or fees could become Draconian.

    Google doesn't want to build YouTube around an old, lousy video coder that happens to be free, because the users won't be happy their videos load slowly and look horrible; and Google has to pay for the bandwidth.

    So: WebM. Not as good as H.264, but nobody can use it to tell Google "you now have to give us big large huge royalties on your use of this video coder". They can predict their future licensing costs (zero), and their bandwidth costs aren't horrible and the user experience is good.

    WebM benefits everyone except for the people who own H.264 patents. And they will still make money on H.264; they just won't be the only game in town anymore. They want very much to be the only game in town and charge whatever they feel like charging. I don't understand why you are so keen on this idea.

    steveha

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 29, 2011 @09:11PM (#36929970)

    Neither does MPEG-LA

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday July 30, 2011 @05:06AM (#36931508) Journal

    patent analyst Florian Mueller

    Sorry, I just felt the need to quote that. It made me laugh so hard I almost dropped my laptop.

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