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DOJ Anti-trust Investigation of MPEG-LA 149

thomst writes "The Wall Street Journal's Thomas Catan reports that the Department of Justice has launched an anti-trust investigation of MPEG-LA's purported efforts to prevent Google's VP8 codec from widespread adoption. According to the article, the California Stare Attorney General's office is also investigating MPEG-LA for possible restraint of trade practices."
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DOJ Anti-trust Investigation of MPEG-LA

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  • by Plombo ( 1914028 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @11:01AM (#35379350)
    The MPEG-LA is not actually affiliated with MPEG or ISO.
  • by Mystiq ( 101361 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @11:30AM (#35379648)
    Er, my intention was there, even if the wording wasn't. :) Replace "patent" with "royalty" where appropriate if you like.
  • Re:yea! (Score:2, Informative)

    by KingMotley ( 944240 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @11:51AM (#35379878) Journal

    Hmm... The two best-known? I think the following companies would like to argue that point:
    Cisco Systems
    Dolby Laboratories Licensing Corporation
    Fujitsu Limited
    Hewlett-Packard Company
    Hitachi, Ltd.
    Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.
    LG Electronics Inc.
    Mitsubishi Electric Corporation
    Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation
    Panasonic Corporation
    Robert Bosch GmbH*
    Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
    Sharp Corporation
    Siemens AG
    Sony Corporation
    Toshiba Corporation

  • Re:yea! (Score:4, Informative)

    by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot&worf,net> on Friday March 04, 2011 @01:19PM (#35381120)

    Missing the point. This is an anti-trust suit. A trust is when companies that should be competing conspire for monopolistic powers/purposes. If individual patent holders were behaving in a free-market way, they would each challenge individually, giving google the ability to pick and choose which patents to license or give royalties to, should anyone actually have an unexpired patent that pertains. Google would also have to option of altering VP8 to not infringe on any patents held by people who were asking too high a price. Doing so would require knowing the price.

    Instead, we have the formation of a cartel that plans to bundle all patents together so the holders are no longer competing, but form an illegal trust. Granted it is probably a toothless one without any actual infringed patents -- but whether or not they actually have any goods is still unknown, so it doesn't matter -- the legal situation must be treated as if they do in fact have infringing patents, since it is their express purpose to gather them.

    in the meantime they are using the prospect of this bloc of patent holders as a basis to go out and make declarative public statements before actually producing any evidence that they actually have any patents that were infringed. As they have done such, they may be already guilty of anti-trust behavior, because they have utilized the common asset of their bluff.

    Actually, companies are free to implement h.264 WITHOUT involving the MPEG-LA. It's just that the company is now responsible for dealing with licensing the 1000+ patents from everyone themselves.

    All the MPEG-LA does is provide a generic license of "Pay us $X per device and you'll be licensed to use all these patents". You are free to go after each and every patent holder separately.

    Of course, there are advantages to going with MPEG-LA than doing it yourself, notably, dealing with 1000+ legal agreements is pretty difficult and time-consuming, and there's no guarantee that you can get it cheaper. Also, if you're dealing with one of your major competitors, they could simply deny you a license, or charge extra for it (MPEG-LA licensing is RAND).

    Of course, I don't know what the MPEG-LA licenses are like, but they could also include clauses that say the license is only valid for h.264, and other codecs using the same things (VP8 is supposed to allow use of the same blocks has h.264) could very well require extra licensing because that block's license terms only cover h.264, not VP8, h.265, SuperCoolCodec, or whatever. This is less about the software decoders, but the hardware accellerators you'll need for VP8 to be used in mobile devices.

    End result could very well be that you're paying for an h.264 license in order to do hardware accellerated VP8 decode.

  • Re:yea! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anthony Mouse ( 1927662 ) on Friday March 04, 2011 @01:48PM (#35381522)

    If MPEG-LA believes that VP8 infringes, then they are well within their rights to question it.

    I don't think that's the issue. It isn't that if someone has a patent that reads on VP8 they aren't allowed to enforce it. It's that the people who control the rights to VP8's primary competitor are trying to gain control over rights to VP8.

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"