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MPEG-LA Considering Patent Pool For VP8/WebM

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the who-you-callin'-unencumbered dept.

Patents 399

An anonymous reader writes "Well, that didn't take long. Larry Horn, CEO of MPEG-LA, the consortium that controls the AVC/H.264 video standard, says the group is looking at creating a patent pool license for VP8 and WebM, Google's new open source, royalty-free HTML5 video format... So much for a Web video standard unencumbered by patent issues." We talked about VP8/WebM a couple of days ago when Google open sourced it. Reader Stoobalou points out another late-night email from Steve Jobs, who was asked to comment on VP8 vs. H.264. Jobs laconically sent a pointer to the technical analysis we linked before, where the poster says "VP8 copies way too much from H.264 for anyone sane to be comfortable with it, no matter whose word is behind the claim of being patent-free."

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Patent violations (-1, Troll)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292294)

The thing is, MPEG-LA ensures that H.264 and you are free from any patent violations. Google doesn't offer anything such, they actually say they don't take responsibility on any such tthing, so it's a patent bomb waiting to happen and any company that uses it takes risks. That's why it might make more sense to just use H.264 and save yourself from future problems.

That and the fact that H.264 is already on every device on the planet.

Re:Patent violations (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292352)

"The thing is, MPEG-LA ensures that H.264 and you are free from any patent violations".

That's technically not true. However, any third party that tried to litigate would have it made worth their while to join the pool. If it's really money you're after, it's much safer and easier to join the pool.

Re:Patent violations (1)

sribe (304414) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292482)

That's technically not true.

You're right, however considering how long and widely H.264 has been used, how well-known MPEG-LA is, and the efforts the group made to include all holders of relevant patents, it seems very unlikely that any legitimate claim will surface in the future.

Re:Patent violations (2, Interesting)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292572)

One showed up on MP3, and Microsoft had to pay up a bundle on top of their original MP3 licence. Is H.264 simpler or older than MP3?

Consider how long Theora has been out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292624)

Consider how long Theora has been out, there is no patent claim against it yet, and the efforts Xiph made to avoid any patents, it seems very unlikely that any legitimate claim will surface in the future.

Especially given that MPEG/LA have many solicitors who know EXACTLY what they have patents on and still have not found any patent violations in Theora (or VP8).

Re:Consider how long Theora has been out (-1, Redundant)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292686)

They could also be just waiting for Theora to become widespread and attack then. It wouldn't make much sense to sue now if theres a possibility you can get a lot more money in the future.

Re:Consider how long Theora has been out (3, Interesting)

ericrost (1049312) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292820)

IANAL, but, wouldn't that make a good case for estoppel? Saying that there were well known, visible implementations of this technology in the field for years, and the rights holder waited until commercial viability and adoption to give economic incentive to litigate. Seems like the definition of estoppel to me (in my NAL understanding).

Re:Patent violations (2, Insightful)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292558)

True, it's not technically true but if a submarine patent did arrive since you did license the patents it would be a sign that you were working in good faith with all the knowledge you had and weren't trying to willfully infringe any patents. Such a thing is very important in patent lawsuits.

Re:Patent violations (3, Insightful)

Dogun (7502) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292736)

The world would, of course, be a lot better off if ignoring suspected patent infringement until it appears like there might be a lot of money to be made from suing the suspected infringer were grounds for dismissal of the suit.

Re:Patent violations (3, Informative)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292794)

There is already something like that in the common law tradition. It's called laches [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Patent violations (4, Insightful)

Mad Merlin (837387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292392)

Except for the fact that Google has already placed themselves in the crosshairs by using VP8/WebM themselves. Are you worth more than Google? Didn't think so.

Re:Patent violations (1, Informative)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292534)

Except for the fact that Google has already placed themselves in the crosshairs by using VP8/WebM themselves.

But Google has already licensed the MPEG-LA patents so they have nothing to worry about.

Are you worth more than Google? Didn't think so.

Apparently you don't know who makes up the patent pool for H.264. It's pretty much the biggest conglomerates in the world and pretty much all the biggest names in the technology industry. They could crush Google like nothing.

Sublicense? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292630)

But Google has already licensed the MPEG-LA patents so they have nothing to worry about.

With or without the authority to sublicense these patents?

They could crush Google like nothing.

How about adding something like this to the TOS of an unrelated, widely used Google service: "By entering a query into Google Search, you agree not to sue users of WebM multimedia technology for infringement of any patent that you believe is essential to WebM multimedia technology."

Re:Sublicense? (4, Informative)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292676)

With or without the authority to sublicense these patents?

They are explicitly not providing patent protection for anyone else.

How about adding something like this to the TOS of an unrelated, widely used Google service: "By entering a query into Google Search, you agree not to sue users of WebM multimedia technology for infringement of any patent that you believe is essential to WebM multimedia technology."

Because that wouldn't stand up in any court of law?

Re:Patent violations (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292762)

The MPEG-LA is worth xxx billion. Google is only worth xx billion. So what.
When you're worth that much it really doesn't matter. Would Google having another
10 or 100 billion help them mount a better legal defence? Would it make their case
stronger? Neither side would die as a result of this so it really makes no difference
how big they are once they reach a certain size.

I'm sure the combined companies of the MPEG-LA could make things very difficult for Google
but then Google could also make things difficult for the MPEG-LA. Didn't they remove CNet
for violating the CEO's privacy? Dropping MPEG-LA sites down the rankings a few pages or
even a little note saying "the company operating the site you are about to visit could be
attempting to ransom the internet"

Re:Patent violations (3, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292562)

They don't need to go after Google first. Google has explicitly stated they don't ensure you don't get patent litigation, so you are on your own to fight it.

This has been the tactic forever - attack the small guy first, so you get backing up to attack the big guys later if you want to.

Re:Patent violations (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292696)

My possible payout minus the cost of suing me is definitely higher than Google's possible payout minus the cost of suing them. Google has a very large and very well qualified legal department which, even if they are completely in the wrong, will ensure that suing them over a patent violation is a losing proposition.

Re:Patent violations (2, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292394)

The clone-makers copied the IBM PC and the Intel 486/ Pentiums, and they did not face any legal consequences, because they implemented the technology using a different method (different wiring). Couldn't the folks behind VP8 make the same claim? "Yeah sure it uses similar MPEG4 techniques, but the code is completely different and with differing end results."

Re:Patent violations (0)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292450)

Different wiring constituted a different method of implementing something similar, but not the same. Different code to implement the exact same idea is a completely different matter.

Ultimately, it depends on what the patent claims cover.

Re:Patent violations (1)

Locklin (1074657) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292804)

Clones differ from IBM PC's in similar ways different encoders/decoders differ. Some encoders/decoders will be better or worse quality or speed, written in different languages with different compartmentalization, they often have different options or work in different environments.

Of course, arguing about patents is like arguing about the number of angels that can stand on the head of a pin. It's all ridiculous in the end.

"with differing end results" (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292452)

In countries where information processing patents like the H.264 patents exist (namely USA, Germany, and the Republic of Korea), these tend to be broader and harder to work around than patents on hardware, especially when the codec's spec specifies what sorts of processing a decoder shall use. You don't want a decoder "with differing end results" because then you can't decode conforming bitstreams.

Republic of Korea has swpats? (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292586)

The Republic of Korea has information processing patents?

Have you any links about this, or any information that someone could use as a starting point to learn more?

I've pretty much no info about Korea, but it's all welcome here:

http://en.swpat.org/wiki/South_Korea [swpat.org]

Thanks.

Re:Republic of Korea has swpats? (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292788)

The Republic of Korea has information processing patents?

The Wild Fox [sourceforge.net] maintainer seems to think so.

It's already there. AIPLA: South Korea [aipla.org] states that information-processing apparatus claims such as "a computer system that does task X by performing steps A, B, and C" are valid. In the case of a video codec patent, X is "prepare video for transmission through a digital channel" for an encoder or "receive video transmitted through a digital channel" for a decoder, and A, B, and C describe a block diagram of the codec.

Re:Republic of Korea has swpats? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292870)

The Wild Fox [sourceforge.net] maintainer seems to think so.

Maintainer? That implies something is being maintained. The Wild Fox project hasn't produced any releases yet. Given the release of WebM and YouTube providing WebM content, I don't think there's going to be all that much call for Wild Fox going forward.

Re:Republic of Korea has swpats? (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292880)

Thanks for the Wild Fox link.

AIPLA make their money from patents, so I wouldn't trust them on their word.

Re:Patent violations (2, Insightful)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292396)

No they don't. the thing is that MPEG-LA tries to control whether you are violating patents. That is a completely other thing.

Easily said, not so easily done (2, Insightful)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292416)

"That's why it might make more sense to just use H.264 and save yourself from future problems."

Sure. Provided this statement is a cash-guarantee to everyone who wants to implement it: You'll pay roll all the licensing fees, yeah?

Re:Patent violations (4, Insightful)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292422)

They don't ensure any such thing. They ensure their patent pool holders won't sue you over H.264; but buying a licence from them does not mean they'll protect you against others suing you over H.264.

Re:Patent violations (5, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292436)

MPEG-LA ensures that H.264 and you are free from any patent violations.

Free of any patent violations of any patent in their pool. Once you pay for their protection. If someone outside the pool asserts a patent, sorry, that's not covered. You're only paying Mr. Guido and his organization for protection. If Mr. Vinny decides to burn down your warehouse because you didn't pay HIM, well, that's just unfortunate.

This is where patent pool organizations are more worthless than real organized crime. In the real protection racket, if some shopkeeper is paying you off on schedule, you prevent other punks from trying to horn in on your territory. In a patent pool, once you've got the developer's license money, if someone else declares that they want in on the action, you can either ignore them and let your licensee deal with it, or invite the new patent holder into the pool and jack up the rates to make sure he gets his cut of the racket too.

so it's a patent bomb waiting to happen and any company that uses it takes risks.

Don't kid yourself. In computers, everything is either patented or is about to be. If you do anything creative you're exposed. Suck up the risk and proceed, or shut yourself in your room and accomplish nothing.

Re:Patent violations (3, Insightful)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292566)

Don't kid yourself. In computers, everything is either patented or is about to be.

Only really in America...oh, and Germany as of recently. Damnit, I thought we'd kept those silly "software patent" ideas on the other side of the Atlantic.

It is great how patents are getting so horrendously abused, and yet the people holding them always make it out like a good thing. "Yeah, we've got patents, but we're nice enough to license them to you, and if you sign up then we promise to never sue you (but we'll keep quiet about any other patents that may be floating around)".

Before you say "Not in my country", consider this (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292666)

Only really in America...oh, and Germany as of recently.

But how many refugees from the patent regime in America and Germany are other countries ready to absorb?

Incentive to join the pool (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292582)

If someone outside the pool asserts a patent, sorry, that's not covered.

As AC pointed out [slashdot.org] , the whole idea of a pool is that it will be easier for an entity outside the pool to join the pool and claim its share of the royalty than to litigate on its own.

Google doesn't hold harmless and can't countersue (4, Insightful)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292744)

I try to avoid "See I Told Ya So" types of posts, but in this case SCNR: WebM/VP8 patent risk for software developers" [slashdot.org] (and I previously made that suggestion on my blog in this post on video codecs [blogspot.com] )

I'm all for open-sourcing useful program code but the question here is whether it's fair for Google to expose an entire community, including the commercial adopters of open source, to this kind of risk. The situation surrounding Android serves as a warning. Google is unfortunately in favor of software patents and doesn't do anything against the problem. They're entitled to their patent strategy. But it's important that third parties don't run into patent problems in reliance upon Google's vague promises.

If Google really believed that WebM/VP8 was safe from a patent perspective, then why in the world don't its WebM license terms contain a hold-harmless clause or at least some basic indemnification (less value than holding harmless but better than nothing) in favor of developers adopting it?

People should think twice (at least!) before relying on any vague promises and they should also consider that Google isn't the patent powerhouse that could start a "pissing contest" with the major contributors to the MPEG LA pool. I explained Google's limits in that regard in this recent slashdot comment, The idea of Google countersuing isn't realistic [slashdot.org] .

Re:Patent violations (4, Funny)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292784)

That's why it might make more sense to just use H.264 and save yourself from future problems.

"Nice little codec ya gotcherself there... shame if something should... happen to it."

First post (1)

NervousWreck (1399445) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292298)

In other words, people are not quite as honest as expected. Depressing, yes. Surprising, no.

Screw them. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292324)

Sounds good: Let's get the patents that MPEG-LA claims might affect VP8 out in the open. Let's get an explicit listing of exactly where they think it infringes. And then we'll fix it.

This as opposed to Microsoft's approach to everything else, and Apple's approach so-far, of obliquely threatening that someone may someday find something that vaguely infringes some potential patent by some unknown party.

Re:Screw them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292378)

Except that to "fix" all the parts that could possible be infringing would cripple VP8 even moreso with respect to H.264 then it already is.

Re:Screw them. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292552)

Except that to "fix" all the parts that could possible be infringing would cripple VP8 even moreso with respect to H.264 then it already is.

Guess we ought to just surrender now. Because the H.264 patents must cover every possible good implementation of every vaguely-similar compression...

Except that is complete crap. Start with the specific patents, then work or innovate around them. The folks designing VP8 aimed to do just that. Now if our dear friends at MPEG-LA will finish their threatening review and point out specific flaws, we in the community can finish the job.

Fools on the case and they're giving me Baseline (1, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292530)

Let's get the patents that MPEG-LA claims might affect VP8 out in the open.

The last article linked to an analysis of VP8 [multimedia.cx] that pointed out its striking similarity to H.264 Baseline [ytmnd.com] . So I guess you can start with the H.264 patent list on mpegla.com [mpegla.com] . Removing these patented parts would turn it into Theora, which is closer to DivX (MPEG-4 Part 2).

Re:Fools on the case and they're giving me Baselin (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292924)

.. striking similarity to H.264 ...

Amazing! If only the VP8 designers or Google had thought of such a thing... Or you're another bloody Slashdot commenter who thinks that vague similarity to the overview of a patent implies infringement.

For a response from someone both more qualified and less inflammatory than I, try: http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikitech-l/2010-May/047795.html

So when does MPGE4 AVC/H.264 expire? (2, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292340)

When do the patents expire and the invention fall into the public domain?

- "Sometime after both you and your grandchildren are dead."

Well that's a bad plan.

Re:So when does MPGE4 AVC/H.264 expire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292466)

That would be copyright. In this case it's sometime after your gadgets are dead/obsolete.

Re:So when does MPGE4 AVC/H.264 expire? (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292484)

Actually, IIRC, it is about 20 years after the patent has been granted. You probably mistake it with copyright that is currently 70 years after the author's death.

Re:So when does MPGE4 AVC/H.264 expire? (3, Insightful)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292542)

You're confusing patent and copyright. The last of the h.264 patents should expire around 2025. Approximately 15 years from now.

I'm very much hoping (and it's very realistic to expect) that I will be alive at that point, and so will my parents. If you got a kitten today, it might not make it, though. Sorry.

Given my daughter's current age, it's likely that any potential grandchildren wouldn't even be born by then.

Re:So when does MPGE4 AVC/H.264 expire? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292646)

The last of the h.264 patents should expire around 2025. Approximately 15 years from now.

That does, of course, assume no-one manages to successfully lobby for increased patent terms any time during the next 15 years.

Re:So when does MPGE4 AVC/H.264 expire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292606)

When do the patents expire and the invention fall into the public domain?

- "Sometime after both you and your grandchildren are dead."

You're thinking of copyright. Patents may last a while, but there's stuff that's been patented after I was born that's already expired (and I'm only 33).

For example, the GIF related patents [wikipedia.org] (specifically for LZW compression) were filed in June of 1983. They expired 20 years later in June of 2003 (though some non-U.S. patents lasted until 2004). That's still a pretty long time in the fast-moving world of software and data, but it's not nearly as bad as the copyright situation where Congress seems to keep extending the duration of existing copyrights to make Disney happy.

Re:So when does MPGE4 AVC/H.264 expire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292660)

When do the patents expire and the invention fall into the public domain?

- "Sometime after both you and your grandchildren are dead."

The same probably goes for Ogg Theora and VP8 too.

Re:So when does MPGE4 AVC/H.264 expire? (1)

Col Bat Guano (633857) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292668)

Well I'm sure that the current companies paying royalties could put some money into a hitman fund to kill both him and his grandchildren, and hasten the patent expiry...

It'd be cheaper in the long run.

Abolishing swpats the only solution (3, Informative)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292388)

AV is really the area worst affected by software patents. The media talks a lot about "silly patents", but they're *not* the real problem. MPEG-LA holds over 1000 patents - no amount of raised standards will solve this problem. Patents on playing video have to be declared null and void.

Re:Abolishing swpats the only solution (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292430)

>>>Patents on playing video have to be declared null and void

Why? If you are using VHS or CD, the respective companies (JVC, Sony, Philips) get a piece of the royalties on each sale, to offset the high initial costs of the invention. It seems logical the same would be true if you are using MPEG2 or MP3. Without that guarantee of return, these companies would have never bothered to invent VHS, CD, MPEG in the first place.

Re:Abolishing swpats the only solution (4, Interesting)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292580)

Without that guarantee of return, these companies would have never bothered to invent VHS, CD, MPEG in the first place.

Maybe these companies wouldn't have. Does this mean that these technologies would not have been invented anyway ? I don't think so. MP3 was invented partially thanks to public funds (Fraunhoffer is a half-public R&D institute) and most of the patented "innovations" of private R&D labs are often base on public research publication. What my experience showed me is that usually, in "R&D" the "R" is often made by public labs and the "D" by private companies. Therefore, it should be lawful to reuse the "R" part. In the context of software, that often means the core algorithm, exactly what is concerned by these patents. The 'D' part is well covered by copyright.

Re:Abolishing swpats the only solution (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292726)

> Without that guarantee of return, these companies would have never bothered to invent

Utter nonsense.

First, the work of all free software encoder projects gets done without any patent royalty incentives.

Second, Google is now paying people to work on a video encoder, without any patent royalty incentives.

Third, if the current patent profiteers couldn't demand patent royalties, sure they're fire off teary-eyed press releases, but there's nothing to show they'd stop all development. All online video companies have an incentive to fund development of online video - I hope that doesn't need further explanation.

Three more examples: MS, GNU, everyone before 1991 (1)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292812)

Microsoft wrote Dos, Windows 3.x, Windows NT, and Windows 95 without patents.

Microsoft's whole patent portfolio in 1995 was five patents (and they might not even have been MS patents - they might just have been acquired when buying some company). How can you explain the investment to write all that software without your "guarantee of return" from patents? Was it charity?

Another example is GNU/Linux - even more software which is still being written without patents.

Another example: the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Where did software come from? Did it get invented in the 50s and stagnate until software patents appeared in the 90s?

The "needed to encourage investment" idea is completely bankrupt.

Re:Abolishing swpats the only solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292770)

Yeah right. As if there would be no incentive to compress video if you couldn't patent it.

Re:Abolishing swpats the only solution (3, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292822)

Without a guarantee of return, Monty and other Xiph.Org contributors invented the Vorbis audio codec, which is competitive with AAC at all but the lowest bitrates.

Re:Abolishing swpats the only solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292910)

Without that guarantee of return, these companies would have never bothered to invent VHS, CD, MPEG in the first place.

I'm okay with that. Some one else would have invented it then. You really think no one in the future would ever invent it without patents?

Re:Abolishing swpats the only solution (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292740)

MPEG-LA holds over 1000 patents - no amount of raised standards will solve this problem. Patents on playing video have to be declared null and void.

Bear in mind that, according to the analysis, VP8 likely has copyright problems, too. Perhaps the answer is to stop copying code from your competitors and actually invent your own solutions.

Golden Girls! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292402)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you ever knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say thank you for being a friend.

HTML5 (3, Insightful)

damicatz (711271) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292406)

This is why no one is going to seriously use the HTML5 video tag. What advantage does HTML5 offer over Flash for web designers when you have to worry about supporting multiple codecs because no one can agree on a standard codec to use. On the other hand, if you use Flash, pretty much everyone (except those subject to Steve Jobs' Dictatorship) can view your video and you don't have to worry about supporting multiple codecs. So now you have to worry about The HTML 5 tag is a poor standard; a typical result of a standard by committee. The whole point of the web is to be able to display the content on any platform. Allowing people to use proprietary patent-encumbered codecs as part of the official standard goes against that whole concept. The tag is something I would expect to see from Microsoft, not the W3C.

Is Apple just another patent troll now? (0, Offtopic)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292414)

It is beginning to look like it to me. Apple is acting exactly like Microsoft. Apple feels threatened by Google. Instead of competing by making a better product, it's just lawsuits and Tonya Harding tactics.

I am quickly losing respect for Apple.

Re:Is Apple just another patent troll now? (1)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292570)

Patents are just a dog-eat-dog thing though. If you don't screw someone else over, they'll screw you over. Apple already experienced that with some iPod tech if I recall - MS submitted a patent a few months prior to Apple patenting their iPod UI stuff. MS got the patent and Apple paid royalties to MS

I think they got it overturned (or were trying to) - but my point is, there's no way they'll let that happen again. They'll mess up everyone else first because they've already been bitten by the not-using-patents-to-maximum-extent thing

Re:Is Apple just another patent troll now? (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292652)

How does this have anything to do with Apple? MPEG-LA is not Apple. Apple is a member of MPEG-LA but so are a lot of companies.

Jesus, is it really so hard for people to find legitimate reasons to hate Apple that they have to make stuff up? If you disagree with Apple's decisions and direction and don't want to like them, fine but could you at least make an effort to base it on something legitimate? They do things that lots of people disagree with - base your hatred on one of those things. MPEG-LA is not Apple. Apple is not MPEG-LA.

Re:Is Apple just another patent troll now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292694)

Read the fucking summary before you say "THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH XYZ LUL"

Jesus, is it really so hard for you to READ? Or better yet, INFER? Jobs comments on VP8, and suddenly MPEG-LA is on the scene. Apple and Google aren't best of friends. Do the maths.

Apple is not MPEG-LA (2, Insightful)

Lord Kenja (45995) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292670)

When did Apple become MPEG-LA? They hold a very small number of the patents that is in the H.264 pool (I seem to remember it is only 1). When it comes to video codecs, Apple is just a company that tries to protect itself against patent suits.

Re:Is Apple just another patent troll now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292720)

Yes. Steve Jobs predicted VP8 would be a target of patent lawsuits and so they are sticking with H.264 which they are already licensing for their users and this makes me lose respect for them also. Apple is just like Microsoft who also licensed H.264 and therefore are Hitler.

Re:Is Apple just another patent troll now? (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292738)

Apple does not by any measure drive MPEG-LA on anything.

I don't get it. (1, Interesting)

DarrenBaker (322210) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292446)

Maybe I'm thick, but I don't understand why, if Google's so interested in freeing up a video codec for use as a standard, they don't just apply some of their legendary minds to fixing OGG Vorbis. Is it so fundamentally flawed that not even Google and their legions of high-powered open-source minds can't make it better than H.264?

Re:I don't get it. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292540)

> OGG Vorbis
OGG is a container format. Vorbis is an audio codec, quite a good one at that. You might be thinking of the Theora video format.

> Is it so fundamentally flawed that not even Google and their legions of high-powered open-source minds can't make it better than H.264?
This is impossible. Spec-wise Theora is based an pretty ancient technology. A good Theora implementation cannot compete with a good H.264 implementation, quality-wise. Unless you change the format, this cannot be fixed.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

DarrenBaker (322210) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292656)

I see. Thank you for disabusing me of my notions, Anonymous hero! So I guess it's time to restart from scratch?

Uh, it's still better than MPEG2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292716)

Uh, it's still better than MPEG2 and that was once the dog's bollocks in compression. So suddenly it's worthless when a slightly better product comes along?

So what was your licensing for H.264 worth when H.269 come along and 264 is the Theora of the age?

The bitrate disparity is minimal, the only place it matters in the slightest is on limited CPU power systems. Apart from that, there's NOTHING wrong with Theora and one HUGE thing right: it's free to implement.

Re:Uh, it's still better than MPEG2 (1)

DarrenBaker (322210) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292832)

I think I heard somewhere that the compression with Theora isn't as good as H.264, which may not mean much to lowly us, but to YouTube it translates to massive amounts of bandwidth required per day above and beyond H.264. Best thing to do, really would be to use H.264 until the day before they start charging for it, then release your own open video format on the day. Well, maybe not the *best* thing to do, but it would be dramatic!

Re:I don't get it. (2, Insightful)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292642)

Maybe I'm thick, but I don't understand why, if Google's so interested in freeing up a video codec for use as a standard, they don't just apply some of their legendary minds to fixing OGG Vorbis.

Because Vorbis is an audio codec?

Google and their legions of high-powered open-source minds can't make it better than H.264?

Not without likely infringing a number of patents in the process.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

DarrenBaker (322210) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292872)

Yes, I meant Theora - I *am* thick.

So, it's impossible to develop a video codec now, even from scratch, without infringing on patents?

Re:I don't get it. (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292768)

Why do you think that Ogg / Vorbis / Theora is not patent encumbered ? Have you done a patent search on that technology ?

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292826)

Maybe I'm thick, but I don't understand why, if Google's so interested in freeing up a video codec for use as a standard, they don't just apply some of their legendary minds to fixing OGG Vorbis. Is it so fundamentally flawed that not even Google and their legions of high-powered open-source minds can't make it better than H.264?

Quote from link in article http://x264dev.multimedia.cx/?p=377:

"Addendum B: Google’s choice of container and audio format for HTML5

Google has chosen Matroska for their container format.
[...]
The choice of Vorbis for audio is practically a no-brainer. Even ignoring the issue of patents, libvorbis is still the best general-purpose open source audio encoder.
[...]"

They are using Vorbis. And VP8 arguably supercedes Theora (based on VP3). It would have been nice if they had done this sooner. From my own experience, Theora implementations are pretty buggy overall.
Btw, Vorbis is audio, H.264 is video. Maybe you meant Theora?

Re:I don't get it. (1)

DarrenBaker (322210) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292848)

Indeed I did mean Theora, thank you.

Re:I don't get it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292918)

OGG Theora is based on a VP3. Google's new codec is based on VP8. VP8 is a direct successor to VP3. So in a way WebM, it is an improved version of Theora.
In addition, they're also using Ogg Vorbis for the audio component of the new codec.

Mpegla (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292458)

Will this replace their MPEG2 revenue stream which has its patents running out soon?

On2 video patents (4, Insightful)

EvilMonkeySlayer (826044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292500)

You know, On2 has been around a while now in the video codec game. I wonder how many patents they hold that MPEG-LA are violating with their video codecs. If MPEG-LA goes up against Google/On2 chances are they'll retaliate with patents that MPEG-LA is infringing upon.

I'm surprised no one has thought of this (at least all the news posts I've seen), that MPEG-LA may be opening themselves up to some pretty serious patent retaliation.

Re:On2 video patents (0)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292620)

Yeah because On2 is going to be able to takedown Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, Hitachi, Fujitsu, LG, Philips, Fraunhofer, Sharp, Seimens? You're joking right? These companies have a far more vast patent portfolio than some little dinky company like On2 could ever dream of having.

Re:On2 video patents (1)

EvilMonkeySlayer (826044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292674)

That won't invalidate the patents though, after all how many millions has MS and various other large companies been paying out in court to small patent holding companies?

Re:On2 video patents (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292780)

That won't invalidate the patents though,

No, that alone wouldn't but they would be able to throw enough infringement claims back to either make On2 step back or they would drain the company dry in legal fees.

after all how many millions has MS and various other large companies been paying out in court to small patent holding companies?

You mean the chump change that barely makes up a few percent of their total yearly revenue?

Re:On2 video patents (1)

EvilMonkeySlayer (826044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292874)

You assume On2 is a small dinky company, but it isn't. It's a part of Google now remember. I'm sure Google hold more than their fair share of patents too to turn this into a game of patent nuclear warfare.

$290 million [seattlepi.com] is chump change? And that's just one of the cases MS lost. $290 million there, another couple of hundred here and it all adds up.

Re:On2 video patents (5, Insightful)

jabuzz (182671) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292864)

All it takes is for h.264 to infringe one patent that Goggle holds and they are stuffed. Google could then simply require for licensing their patent that any patents held by MPEG-LA against VP8 to not be enforced against any implementation of VP8.

If they don't agree then Google can file for an injunction to stop any infringing product from shipping, and collect large damages in the meantime.

Re:On2 video patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292896)

So, sell the patent to a troll and the shake-down terms are either "Free the Codec" or "All your license royalties". MPEG-LA are happy to play the shake down game so they shouldn't expect any sympathy if they die by that sword.

Developing a video codec specification should be a sunk cost and not an ongoing revenue stream.

Re:On2 video patents (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292838)

Oh and just so you know doing a patent search I can barely come up with a half dozen patents held by On2. That hardly sounds like they'd be able to make any "serious" patent retaliation.

Re:On2 video patents (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292916)

Quite so. Google now owns every On2 patent, and except for the ones in VP3 (Theora), which On2 already basically relinquished, Google has exclusive control over those licenses.

Google are a search company, and they are very, very good at it. They routinely search millions of terabytes of data in seconds. They have a patent search database: http://www.google.com/patents - and presumably have international data as well as USPTO data but don't yet make that public.

It is reasonable to assume that before they spent $100 million buying On2 for the sole purpose of being able to know a video codec is clean, they could have done an exhaustive patent search. Exhaustive. As in every extant US patent prior to the date of On2's patents. They could quite reasonably have done so. They have the resources to do so, all of the data, a very good search algorithm, and a lot of smart people. Frankly, nobody else, including MPEG-LA or any of its members, could have reasonably done so, and would scoff at whether it was even possible. They very probably did exactly that—that's my guess, anyway. They won't guarantee you, because they're not in the business of selling you insurance (and of course, MPEG-LA are, hence the "nice codec you got here, shame if something were to happen to it" tone).

But I'd bet a fair sum that VP8 was specifically designed by On2 to skirt, but carefully avoid, every MPEG-LA patent (which is why it uses a standard DCT, and why it doesn't have B-frames). (Remember you have to infringe all of the claims of a patent to be infringing.) If On2 had infringed an MPEG-LA patent, MPEG-LA would have been on the attack years ago.

Unless, of course, they know an ugly truth. Maybe H.264 infringes on an On2 patent, and MPEG-LA don't have a licence for it.

Google are now in a position to simply say that they will license those patents to anyone under the license they just published, of course—which simply prohibits any meaningful retaliatory strikes against WebM—and not under any other license. If you want to use H.264, fine, no problem by them, although you'd need an MPEG-LA licence as well. As long as you don't attack WebM or anything in it.

Presto: mutually assured patent destruction defuses the situation, and VP8 gets just as good an assurance as MPEG-LA have.

Also, you know, they kind of own YouTube. You know, the site that serves more video than everything else combined. If your browser, say, Safari, stops working with YouTube, people are not going to view it as a problem with YouTube, especially given Google Chrome is built on the same core but is significantly faster.

VP8 doesn't look too bad. It isn't quite x264 quality but it's way better than Theora, it's vastly faster to decode than H.264 is in software, hardware stuff is already on fab and possible with many of the same parts and extensions (any Android phone will be able to do it, and will in 2.2 I think). The encoder is kind of poor, but will get much better after a bunch of open-source tinkering I think. It prefers blur to block, which is much better when you're talking about a small screen too; really, H.264 can be overly grainy and blocky and in many cases tries to be too sharp. VP8 is good enough for the web, and it's open, and though it isn't going to be evil, it does has a powerful gorilla protecting it now.

Also, y'know, by the by, so does Matroska and Vorbis.

Win-win. Bring it on.

Who is MPEG-LA? (0, Troll)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292504)

From wikipedia: The following organizations hold one or more patents in the H.264/AVC patent pool: 1. APPLE INC.

Magically, apple wants to enforce their HTML5 patents after trying to force people away from Flash? HAAA HAAA.

Re:Who is MPEG-LA? (2, Informative)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292706)

Here, let me fill in the list since you seemed to not select all of them when you copied from Wikipedia:

The following organizations hold one or more patents in the H.264/AVC patent pool.

* Apple Inc.
* DAEWOO
* Dolby Laboratories Licensing Corporation
* Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute
* France Télécom, société anonyme
* Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V.
* Fujitsu Limited
* Hitachi, Ltd.
* Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.
* LG Electronics Inc.
* Microsoft Corporation
* Mitsubishi Electric Corporation
* NTT docomo
* Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation
* Panasonic Corporation
* Robert Bosch GmbH GmbH
* Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
* Scientific-Atlanta Vancouver Company
* Sedna Patent Services, LLC
* Sharp Corporation
* Siemens AG
* Sony Corporation
* Ericsson
* The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York
* Toshiba Corporation
* Victor Company of Japan, Limited

Oh, an in case it isn't clear, Apple is listed first because the list is ordered alphabetically.

Re:Who is MPEG-LA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292866)

Yes, and they only own one of the more than 1000 patents on H.264.

Re:Who is MPEG-LA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292888)

Why is Ericsson after Sony?

Re:Who is MPEG-LA? (1)

diegocg (1680514) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292728)

I don't think Apple "wants" to enforce anything. Apple probably doesn't gives a fuck about codecs, but they need to ship products with decent video (that means H.264, at least until now) and be sure that they won't be sued. That means you need to follow the MPEG-LA rules. That's why Apple is there, much like mobile manufacturers have patent pools to use GSM safely.

Re:Who is MPEG-LA? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292842)

Magically, [an H.264 patent holder] wants to enforce their HTML5 patents after trying to force people away from Flash?

Flash includes H.264.

More proof... (1)

scottwilkins (1224922) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292532)

Again, more proof that the patent system is broken. A reboot is needed.

Re:More proof... (2, Interesting)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292678)

I still feel that the best way to go about that reboot is to start a non-practicing entity (can't get sued) that goes for the jugular of huge companies, attacking their most important products.

Most non-practicing entities just do it for the money, though. They attack the most important products, maybe get imports stopped for a week, and then get a large settlement and go away.

What I'd like to see is an NPE that does it for putting companies out of business. Attack the most important products, get imports stopped permanently, and then wait until the companies either die or patent reform occurs.

Re:More proof... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292808)

That's the most awesome idea I've heard all week! Now, just who is going to create the NPE... :-/

Hypocrisy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292560)

Come on Google, how can you flip h.264 the bird with one hand and jerk off Adobe/Flash with the other?

Change... (1)

scottwilkins (1224922) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292650)

Some folks just resist change, especially when they are not in the spotlight on it. Jobs needs to suck it up, and stop commenting where not needed.

Baseless assertions (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32292654)

Jobs laconically sent a pointer to the technical analysis we linked before, where the poster says "VP8 copies way too much from H.264 for anyone sane to be comfortable with it, no matter whose word is behind the claim of being patent-free."

These hand-waving assertions are frankly weak. Whatever happened to Jobs' mysterious lawsuit against Theora? Has there been any confirmation of any such thing? The Xiph.Org Foundation says no one's bothered to contact them about it.

I don't see much value in listening to scare mongering from Jobs or from Dark Shikari. Neither have provided any specific, direct, detailed evidence that there are patent violations. All both have to say is "Well, gosh! It seems pretty similar!" and that's just not enough. The thing is when it comes to codec patents the specific details matter. It's not enough to be "similar", it has to be very narrowly and very specifically the same.

Fight fire with fire (2, Interesting)

mukund (163654) | more than 4 years ago | (#32292814)

There are ways to fight software patents within the current legal system.

Create a very large patent pool, but one that isn't defensive. All it takes is for every single company with commercial interest in free software to pool their patents together. Let's call this the good-pool. The companies donate legal fees to this entity. Now,

1. Wait for _ANY_ other software patent licensing pool to be created, such as the MPEG-LA. Call this the bad-pool. Such a group basically consists of companies that have 'donated' their software patents for threatening/suing others and getting paid. Once such a pool is formed, go after the member companies by asserting relevant patents from the good-pool. Don't wait to defend, but go on the offensive. Also, if any individual company threatens/sues another company with software patents, the good-pool again goes on the offensive.

After some time, no company will dare join a pool, or threaten another company again. This works, except for patent troll companies that have no valid business, but that of suing others. We'll come to this in a moment.

2. Software engineers in the community *read the patents in the bad-pool*, and engineer methods very similar to such patents, but those that do not infringe claims in the patents. This is not so tough. Most software patents are ridiculous. Create a wiki and provide alternative methods to avoid each patent.

After some time, no company will dare join a pool again.

In the case of patent trolls, where the company's only reason for existing is to sue others, follow the money. Find out who's behind the company. Even if litigation happens, and there's a payout, the matter doesn't end there. Find out who is benefiting. These people definitely have investments in other companies. Use the good pool to sue these other companies.

Note that this approach is much like the MPEG-LA licensing pool and does not involve companies giving up patents to the pool.

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