back to article Google open video codec may face patent clash

The group that controls the patented H.264 video codec backed by Apple and Microsoft is "looking into" the creation of a patent pool license for VP8, the codec Google open sourced to much fanfare this week. Google opened sourced VP8 in an effort to provide a royalty-free alternative to H.264 for HTML5 web video, but in an …


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  1. Jonathan White

    Oh good grief...

    How exactly is the MPEG-LA 'Apple's org' (assuming you intended to use the possessive apostrophe)? Can you please just stop it, it makes you look like a bunch of spoilt children.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the interests of balance

    here's the complete list of the MPEG-LA licensors of AVC/H.264:

    Apple Inc.

    DAEWOO Electronics Corporation

    Dolby Laboratories Licensing 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.

    Microsoft Corporation

    Mitsubishi Electric Corporation


    Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation

    Panasonic Corporation

    Robert Bosch GmbH*

    Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.

    Scientific-Atlanta Vancouver Company

    Sedna Patent Services, LLC

    Sharp Corporation

    Siemens AG

    Sony Corporation

    Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson

    The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York

    Toshiba Corporation

    Victor Company of Japan, Limited

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    can i patent conscience?

    capitalism. must. be. destroyed.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Not so

      Patent Law must be destroyed. There are very good moral and economic arguments against patent law, whereas no-one has ever come up with a valid justification for patent law (except the "special interest" of the big corporation, of course.)

    2. Flybert

      conscience algorithm ?

      you could perhaps patent that and doubtful you'd find prior art

      difficulty would be collecting royalties ..

      those that would want it already have it ..

      and those that don't, won't ..

      1. henrydddd

        Not so

        Actually patent laws can be a good thing. But they won't work when you two corporations that control almost the entire computer industry. These laws were never designed to promote monopolies. As long as these software companies control almost everything, any software created outside of their organizations is a direct threat to them. If they are successful in this patent fight, Linux is next on there list of things to be destroyed

        1. Lou Gosselin

          @Not so

          "But they won't work when you two corporations that control almost the entire computer industry. These laws were never designed to promote monopolies."

          Isn't true that monopolies are exactly what patent laws were designed to promote?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Not quite

            Patent Laws were designed to allow people who'd had a good idea legal protection for that idea- so I could say "hey, here's a great new design for a loom shuttle" and in return for a fee the patent office would provide legal backing for you if someone else copied the idea.

            They were conceived long, long before the massive corporations of today and would have been hard-pressed to see them coming.

          2. Stephen Bungay

            @ Lou Gosselin

            No, they were designed to prevent the rich industrialists from stealing the poor inventor's invention and walking all over him without giving him his due. Today patents are covering Intellectual Property, essentially acting as barriers to creativity, allowing the clever (but lazy) man to act as a gate-keeper to technology. At times the so-called Intellectual Property holders sit and wait, and when a product is successful they pounce, claiming that they did it first and they have been infringed upon and financially harmed by the person who actually did all the work, who overcame the engineering problems and brought the item into existence.

            The trouble stems from the patenting of ideas rather than the implementation of ideas. Ideas can not be owned, the basic idea of heavier than air-flight was around long before the wright-brothers perfected the aileron control system. The basic idea of a horseless-carriage was around long before the first automobiles came into being, indeed the court fight between Henry Ford and George Seldon seems to parallel the kind of thing happening today in IP. Mr Seldon was a patent-troll, perhaps one of the first, and the vehicle that was ordered to be constructed according to his patent was a complete failure. Mr Seldon had never built an automobile, but he sold licenses to his patent so that others could (sound familiar?).

            1. Lou Gosselin

              @Stephen Bungay

              That is well put. Your examples are fine for traditional patents. In the context of software patents though, they are still very problematic. Even if the software patent does cover a specific implementation, the software patent may establish a monopoly on logic and mathematical algorithms, which should not be patentable.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Yeah? Can you suggest an alternative? Or are we just going to fight it out like savages?


    4. Jean-Luc

      gross overgeneralization

      You type this stuff on hardware that was originally developed by... what? agrarian hippies in a commune?

      Software? Probably open source, but largely inspired by... what? Perhaps some Bell Labs work in the 70s?

      This is not to defend software patents as they exist. Just that there is a whole lotta baby with the rather stinky bathwater that this case brings to light.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Capitalism is not the problem...

      Software patents, cartel like-behaviour and monopolistic business practices are the problem. In a socialist world you would not be able to profit from your hard work, in this environment, where abstract concepts and maths can be patented, you also can not profit from hard work. Others attempt to lay claim to the very product of your efforts with a patent, a document which may contain descriptive language that is obtuse to the point of being usless as a description, but perfect for lengthy court battles.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    This is a healthy situation

    The current patent FUD surrounding VP8 and Theora is only bad for the software environment at the moment. Getting all this out in the open can only be good news for the video codec position in the end whether this patent pool wins or loses.

    Personally, I'm glad Google are bringing this whole issue to a head. The last thing that MPEG-LA (like all patent holders) want to do is go after Google in court with their alleged breached patents as the FUD is useful to them whereas losing in court could cost them dearly.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Apple, Microsoft, et al

    I, as an educated web content consumer, pay close attention to which companies want me to have a free, open and DRM-free audio/video codec (Google, etc) and which companies would like to impose their own non-free, DRM-riddled and closed codecs and have you pay for it directly or indirectly (Apple, Microsoft, etc).

    Google love icon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      H.264 does not equal DRM any more than VP8 equals DRM-free. And how are Google, who have just jumped wholesale into bed with fucking Adobe (whose player permits content providers to DRM the crap out of ANY codec, including VP8), even remotely equatable with "open". Wake the fuck up you moron - Google are nobody's heroes here.

  6. Squirrel


    What Google is doing is forcing MPEG-LA's hand to expose its monopoly of patents, whereby all codec use technology they patented (whether its true or not because of the generalisation and limited approaches to video encoding).

    Whether software should be patentable is another matter entirely. But by having them expose their monopoly, then anti-trust measures can be taken.

    MPEG-LA think they own everything related to video encoding because of their patents. It's about time they were stripped of all their trivial patents and generalisations as it's now limiting so many different industries and all innovation in the area.

    1. g e

      Yah right...

      I originally read this as apple/ms trying to put the frighteners on google.

      Now I wonder if google foresaw this and expected this to be the course of action.

      Interesting times.

      Don't destroy capitalism, just ban public shareholders. At least then our call centres will be in our own country/language.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Anyone remember the music industry?

    Back in the 20th century, Earth had what was called "the music industry", which was a clique of sharks who used every trick in the book to screw every penny they could out of people and limit/control how and what people listened to. Independent labels rarely became big because they were squeezed out by the big boys, unless they took the shilling and became largely a façade for one of the big boys, who would then effectively have an alternative music scene sown up just as tightly as the Kylie & Jason brigade.

    What's going on with h.264 seems to me to be a very similar thing. This pool of sharks want to funnel everyone into buying their product with no viable choice. They're secretly happy that Theora exists because it's rubbish and is never going to take off, but it is something they can point to in order to keep regulators off their back. VP8 changes that, offering a viable alternative that will block their revenue streams, and now they're putting on the big squeeze.

    Thankfully, Google have bigger pockets than those old independent labels, so there's still a chance. But once upon a time no one ever thought MS would be taken to court, risk being broken up for anti-trust abuses, fined billions or be forced to offer their customers a choice of browsers, so it's not impossible that Google will still end up being sued and give up.

    Just remember when the British Empire ruled India and made it compulsory for all Indians to buy kurtas and dhotis that were manufactured in England, in order to keep mills in Manchester and Birmingham highly profitable. Apple and MS want to force feed us h.264 for the same reasons, though Apple particularly because they're now primarily a media company whose business model depends on being at the centre of a lucrative eco-system, not a computer or software company who just care about how many copies of their software they sell.

    Sadly, as much as people moaned about the sharp practices of the music industry years ago (high prices, selling the same track to people several times on singles, re-releases with one remixed track, albums, EPs and compilations with 'exclusive' new tracks, etc), they never voted with their feet until broadband came along and then they couldn't stick the knife in fast enough to get their revenge. So ordinary users aren't going to care about codecs and their implications. It's all down to Google this time. How comfortable are we to be 'saved' by a company who track us online and even drive around sniffing our Wi-Fi signals in order to put a land address to an IP address?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      RE: Anyone remember the music industry?

      Good post but why the icon?

      You didn't mention Apple once and the article says that the missive didn't come from Jobs...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >What's going on with h.264 seems to me to be a very similar thing.

      ...There's a lot of the same names this time round too....

      1. Captain Save-a-ho

        There, I fixed it.

        "You mentioned Apple six times".

        How ironic, that you chose the WTF icon. Only the FAIL would better, so there you go.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        RE: RE: Anyone remember the music industry?

        Don't forget that anyone who didn't really read the article but has an irrational fear/hatred of Apple will downvote your post.

        It's probably because their IQs are in single figures.

  8. Zolkó Bronze badge

    Software is not patentable in Europe

    So H.264 or VP8, it's not really important.

    Also, remember SCO going after Linux ?

    What's funnier is that Google (via YouTube) is going to encode all their videos in flash and VP8, which will exclude all iPhoneOS devices accessing half of the web. Amusing, isn't it ? One can smell the fear at Jobs&Co.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      ..So H.264 or VP8, it's not really important

      Its important - h.264 was a sword of Damocles, there's little doubt fees would have risen in the face of dominance. Even in the EU, license fees are hidden in the purchase costs of other software, and if you buy a lot of editors/encoders you are paying again and again with each of them. Nice little earner.

      What I find particularly amusing is that although MS may well have dodged the 'can't sue if you use VP8' clause by supporting end user installs of VP8 IE9 rather than directly distro, Apple's meglomanic control freakery doesn't allow them that option.

    2. Ivan Slavkov

      Software is not, but algorithms are

      Software is not, but algorithms which produce a "technical effect" such as compression, encryption, etc are.

      So a lot of the IPR in 264 is valid in EU as well.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      RE: Software is not patentable in Europe

      "What's funnier is that Google (via YouTube) is going to encode all their videos in flash and VP8, which will exclude all iPhoneOS devices accessing half of the web."

      What a load of blethers. There is an application that comes free on every iPhone that has one function and one function only - browsing YouTube...

      "One can smell the fear at Jobs&Co."


  9. hahnchen

    Put up or shut up

    No more of this FUD from MPEG LA. Google are encoding and delivering video with VP8 right now on Youtube, are you going to do something about it?

    Because, quite frankly, the whispering campaign of FUDDY unmentionable submarine patents has been the most annoying itch, that we can now finally excise. It's time for MPEG LA to name those patents, for Google to challenge them, and for the open source community to work around them.

    No more of this secret war bullshit. Let's get it into the open.

  10. J I

    What a lot of nonsense

    As someone who has worked in the digital video field for a few years, the sheer quantity of nonsense that's been spouted about Google's open-sourcing of VP8 vs H.264 by people who clearly have no idea what they're talking about is amazing. It seems any story involving the words "open source" and "patents" results in pages of comments that look like they've been generated by a tech version of the Twat-O-Tron.

    H.264 is a coding format, it's an ISO standard and it isn't patented as such. It does however make use of many different compression techniques which are patented. There's a lot of them - the document listing all the patent numbers on the MPEG-LA web site is 56 pages long and the patents are held by 26 different organisations. These patents aren't specific to H.264; any similar type of codec is likely to infringe a number of the same patents, so the fact that MPEG-LA is looking at VP8 isn't in the least bit suprising. Indeed it would be pretty hard to come up with a codec of this type that didn't infringe some of these patents.

    Personally I don't agree with software patents, but they exist and that's the world that companies like Apple, Microsoft and all operate in. Some commenters seem to have the bizarre idea that H.264 is a conspiracy by Apple and Microsoft to "lock" people in to something that's "closed". There's nothing closed about H.264 though, it's a proper standard supported by a huge range of software and hardware from hundreds of suppliers, including open source encoders and decoders. One of the good things about it is that it's not controlled by a single company. I think people are confusing "open" with "free", which it clearly isn't if you're doing anything commercial with it.

    When companies like Apple and MS talk about "uncertainty" being a factor against using 'free' video codecs, I think they mostly mean what they say. H.264 is highly encumbered with patents, but at least you know what they are and how much they cost, which is important for any commercial enterprise. Using a codec which doesn't have a clear licensing system is risky, because people could come after you for payments of unpredicatable size at a later date.

    I'm not entirely sure why Google is choosing to fight this battle now, but I doubt it's for altruistic reasons. Maybe they figure that after a long drawn-out bout of legal sniping they will be able to force the MPEG-LA consortium into a compromise which gives Google a deal on terms that are much better than those they could obtain today. As Google's ambitions almost certainly involve making serious money out of video streaming, this could be worth far more to them than the cost of buying On2 and giving the technology away. Anyone have any better theories?

    1. Mike Dimmick

      Not just the web

      US courts have also shot down attempts by companies to sue for patent infringement on MPEG standards when they should have disclosed their patents - for example Qualcomm sued Broadcom over H.264 features. The Register reported on it here:

      That effectively means that the patent situation is limited to paying the fee to MPEG LA who distribute it to the members as agreed.

      In addition, everyone seems to be concentrating only on the web. There's a lot more than just web video going on here. TV broadcasting is a major user of compressed video and, to get more out of the bandwidth available and reduce the costs of HD, they're moving from MPEG-2 to H.264. Freeview HD, Freesat, Sky HD - all H.264. And it's not just us and other users of DVB, the Americans are using it in ATSC and Japan and South American countries in ISDB. That's three of the four transmission standards, the other is China's DMB-T/H which doesn't dictate any codec. This standardisation means there's a lot of very good real-time H.264 kit out there.

      I think Google think they're a lot more powerful than they really are.

    2. Anonymous Coward


      > As Google's ambitions almost certainly involve making serious money out of video streaming

      No shit Sherlock....

      >Maybe they figure that after a long drawn-out bout of legal sniping they will be able to force the MPEG-LA consortium

      MPEG-LA isn't a consortium its a company CEOed by an infamous patent troll who epitomises everything that's wrong with the US patent culture.

      Many of the companies, Apple for one, who've contributed to the pools it manages are also currently being sued by other companies he owns.

      Google it seems have the balls not to play that game.

    3. Al 6

      Even h264 is vulnerable

      MPEG-LA don't necessarily hold all the essential patents for h264. A submarine could surface at any time, and we've seen it before with JPEG, WiFi and even h264. Forgent Networks sued Apple and 30 others over a patent on JPEG, and CSIRO took on Buffalo and others over a patent covering WiFi among other things. AT&T went after h264 users, including Apple. Forgent's patent was rejected after PubPat presented undisclosed prior art to USPTO, but CSIRO and AT&T are still collecting royalties. In each case the patent pool failed to offer the 'certainty' claimed. Next we'll be hearing about the certain uncertainty versus the uncertain uncertainty...

    4. Anonymous Coward

      uncertainty removed

      I don't get your point. The uncertainty about the open *and* free VP8 codec is now removed by Google.

      You use VP8 and Google says you don't have to be scared for patent law suits.

      Of course MPEG-LA will look if any patents of them are violated. That's their right to do so. In the mean while the rest of the world switches to open *and* free because that is cheaper (and also the right thing to do). At the same time MPEG-LA and Google are in a stalemate because both don't want to sue each other for the next 10 years like the SCO case.

      Google does this, because they do not want to pay any license fees to MPEG-LA and at the same time make sure VP8 is widely adopted. Open sourcing VP8 and giving the garantee Google owns the patents which do not infringe on others, will do these things.

      First the costs of youtube go down. Second the costs for external hardware and software makers also goes down because they don't have to pay licenses to enable video in their programs and devices. This makes it cheaper to build these programs and devices. And thus more people will be able to afford such a program or device. Which means more (youtube) viewers, which means more advertising revenues for Google.

      Nothing sells better than free...

      1. frymaster

        uncertainty definately NOT removed

        let's say I'm a search engine company called Boogle. I release, on an open-source license, plans for a new vacuum cleaner called, let's say, Byson, which uses dual cyclone bagless technology. I tell everyone that this design is not encumbered by patents, and that any company at all should be free to implement this.

        What would happen? Anyone putting a product on the market would get the pants sued off them, that's what. Why? Just because google is SAYING this codec isn't encumbered by patents doesn't mean it IS. They might believe it, but belief doesn't make it so.

      2. Rattus Rattus

        Just one thing, in the interests of accuracy

        The Wi-Fi patent held by CSIRO was in no way a submarine patent. Right from the start, as companies began making Wi-Fi kit, CSIRO said "Oi, we own a bit of that, can we have a little money please." The big corps just thought "pfft, government research institute from a little tiny country, let's just ignore them." CSIRO continued to ask, and continued to be ignored, until finally they took it to court and got their payout.

        Note that the details of their basis for asking for payment was clearly stated, from the start, unlike in your typical submarine patent case. Nor was the patent some minor point of the implementation, it was a pretty important part of how Wi-Fi works. And finally, CSIRO actually did the research that resulted in the patent, they didn't acquire it from someone else in the hopes of making a bit of cash from it.

      3. Anonymous Coward

        RE: uncertainty removed

        "You use VP8 and Google says you don't have to be scared for patent law suits."

        They key words there are "Google says".

        The work might infringe on someone else's patent. They say it doesn't but we've seen lots of examples in the past of someone *thinking* they are not treading on patent toes, only to find themselves in a patent minefield. If it does then Google get sued and potentially anyone who has adopted their code...

    5. Ivan Slavkov

      And why do you think that MPEG LA royalties are predictable?

      "because people could come after you for payments of unpredicatable size at a later date"

      It is probably me being particularly thick today...

      So what exactly makes you think that MPEG LA royalties will have a predictable size once the 5 year selfimposed moratorium on web licensing is over?

      The MPEG LA and 3GPP are a demonstration that the current RAND standards process has failed.

      In fact the 3GPP has admitted it and has gone to reuse non-patent royalty encumbered IETF generated intellectual property for LTE. It went to another organisation's process because its own process resulted in an amount of royalties which made any new kit un-sellable.

      It is a pity that neither USA, nor the EU apply the provisions in the IPR law which they applied to the Right's brothers patents on aircraft. These provisions should be used more often in all cases where the patent holder is deliberately sabotaging scientific, industrial development and the establishment of standards which promote said development and scientific progress.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Google knows how the world works.

    People want free and easy. Guess who my friends are gonna call when youtube is no longer working in IE? Me. Guess what I will install for them to make it work? Yes firefox or chrome with the VP8 codec baked into it.

    And I know I'm not alone. Because it is very difficult to make a counter argument. How would that go? "No my dear friend you should not use the open and libre solution, you must buy the proprietary thing so you loose money and everybody is restricted to learning from the solution."

    Google wants cheap, free and an open internet because that makes it accessible to all. Google only makes money if loads of people are able to use their sites. So only open source technology for Google (unless they can sell, like gmail but even that is build with open source tools).

    Where MS spends 900 million dollars to unnecessarily "promote" windows 7 (it's not that you have a choice), open sourcing 124 million worth of technology is an incredible smart strategic move and a cheap investment.

    The cool thing is everybody makes money! The company that created the codec made money. And Google is gonna make money of this, because they are not in the technology business at all. For them technology is like the bus. It drives them to their marketing job. While for MS and Apple technology is their core business! So Google can easily compete by offering a free bus ride.

    It's so simple. In this case adoption is key. Nothing adopts better than something free!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      RE: Google knows how the world works.

      "The cool thing is everybody makes money! The company that created the codec made money."

      The company that created the codec made money because they sold their business to Google.

      Google *believe* that VP8 doesn't tread on anyone's toes but that doesn't make it so.

      It might turn out that it does violate a few other patents. We think we know where we stand with H.264.

      It's a choice of taking VP8 and potentially getting sued or being made to pay royalties at some future date vs taking H.264 and knowing exactly how much to pay.

      1. fandom

        You should read your own posts

        "We think we know where we stand with H.264."

        So, you just think? If you apply the same logic you apply to VP8 that means that a patent suit against H.264 is coming any day now.

        And wasn't there a lot of trouble in mp3 land when someone else started collecting patent money on everyone who made a mp3 gadget? Like getting the german police to raid CeBit stands? Stands of the same brands who didn't support ogg in case their got sued for patent violations?

  12. Tom 7 Silver badge

    @J I

    "H.264 is highly encumbered with patents, but at least you know what they are and how much they cost"

    Until 2015 !! Then, only then will MPEG-LA tell you how much its REALLY going to cost!

    Google is not choosing to fight this battle - its those companies who use the drug pusher model to try and make money out of other peoples work and hope that by threatening very costly legal action you will buy their 'service'. Their service being to charge you to use your computer to watch video downloaded using the internet connection you've already payed for. A bit like me putting a coin meter in your telly and charging you to watch the BBC.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Do You want visually crap low bitrate encoding OR Real visual Quality low bitrate x264 Encoding

    "VP8 vs H.264" it very simple ask yourself, You want crap low bitrate encoding OR Quality low bitrate Encoding ?

    quite simply there is No visually better lower bitrate (500Kbit/s through 1,5 Kbit/s 640×360 16:9 through 1024×576 16:9) video Encoder than the free x264 High Profile AVC/H.264 Encoder.

    if you really want to use this lower quality VP8 then consider this , you will Not reach x264 visual quality for a given low bitrate or file-size , with anything other than x264 Encoded content you Will be pushing far larger amounts of data for a given identical content and getting less quality as a side effect.

    your will be wilfully increasing the massive profit the mobile vendors make per Kbit transferred as your end users try and watch these non x264 encoded streams to their shiny new mobile devices etc.

    put simply there's no such thing as a no cost VP8 or other codec, the mobile and other end users will be paying the massively increased bandwidth to reach near x264/H.264 quality parity costs.

    quality high profile x264 encodes at least gives you Today the easy ability to directly push your newly re-coded High profile content up your low bitrate 512Kbit/s ISP upload pipe at a good quality with VLC etc for remote quality viewing, no other codec can compete with the free x264 encoder on visual quality and and file-size,for such a low average bitrate ,saving masses of Your bandwidth as a very nice side effect. that's why the groups use it for their direct DVD/BR re-encodes...

    1. Zolkó Bronze badge

      S. Jobs, we've uncovered you

      Sent from your iPhone ?

      1. Anonymous Coward


        WTF are you on about?

        In case you haven't noticed, Jobs has his picture attached to the article but that's as close as he gets to the story. MS (and a previously listed consortium) are all behind H.264...

    2. Captain Save-a-ho

      So where does the highly technical part come in?

      1. The free encoder isn't visually better than commercial alternatives. Period. What a douche.

      2. VP8 isn't considered lower quality that H.264 across the board. Next time, have fun reviewing facts before forming an opinion, such as the head-to-head comparison at

      3. "quality high profile x264 encodes at least gives you Today the easy ability to directly push your newly re-coded High profile content up your low bitrate 512Kbit/s ISP upload pipe at a good quality with VLC etc for remote quality viewing, no other codec can compete with the free x264 encoder on visual quality and and file-size,for such a low average bitrate ,saving masses of Your bandwidth as a very nice side effect." Not to go grammar nazi, but how technical can you be? Have you even finished primary school? Learn to write and type, then pretend to be Mr. Badass Technical Codec guy.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @What a lot of nonsense

    "Personally I don't agree with software patents, but they exist and that's the world that companies like Apple, Microsoft and all operate in."

    Hmm, I prefer...

    "Personally I don't agree with software patents, but they exist and that's the USA that companies like Apple, Microsoft and all operate in"

    That's better, this is a USA thing, not European. These patents don't apply here and with recent EC moves, isn't likely to apply anytime soon. The US needs to sort it's patent problems, let's hope that Bilski has the anticipated effect on them.

    1. J I

      Re: @What a lot of nonsense

      "That's better, this is a USA thing, not European. These patents don't apply here and with recent EC moves, isn't likely to apply anytime soon."

      Every year I go to the IBC trade show in Amsterdam (for the broadcast, film and video industry) and every year there's a raid on the stands of a few far-eastern set-top box manufacturers who get all their demo products confiscated because they haven't taken out a license for the MPEG audio codecs (which are managed by Sisvel, not MPEG-LA). If you don't believe me look at this story which dates from 2005, but the same thing happens every year:

      They did the same thing at CeBIT in 2008, as the Reg reported:

      Now this isn't the same issue as H.264, but it does make me question your assertion that nobody tries enfocing codec patents in Europe.

  15. Number6

    Get the code out

    Provided the VP8 code is out in public and outside the US before the shit really hits the fan, at least the rest of us can carry on using it without needing to pay US patent royalties. I wonder if Google would look at moving all the YouTube servers outside the US and whether that would allow them to continue to offer it to the rest of the world, or whether being a US company means they're screwed if they lose?

  16. Neil Lewis

    Content rules

    The MPEG-LA group has as it's goal the monetisation of h264 by way of imposing a licence fee on any hardware which uses it. That hardware is intended to connect to the internet to play video streams.

    There is a problem with their business plan. It only works if h264 is the only serious choice of codec for online video streaming.

    On the internet, the rules of the game have always been very simple - content is king.

    The single largest use of video streaming on the internet is YouTube. You Tube is owned by Google. VP8 is owned by Google. You Tube will use WebM/VP8+Vorbis, not h264.

    It seems likely that h264 may infringe at least as many of ON2's patents (predating h264 by a substantial margin) which are now owned by Google, as vice-versa. MPEG-LA cannot protect pool members against patent claims from others not in the pool.

    VP8 already has support from hardware companies like Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, Broadcom and MIPS as well as Brightcove,, Telestream, Sorenson, Broadcom, MIPS and Qualcomm.

    The game seems to be over for h264 and by extension for MPEG-LA.

    1. J I

      Re: Content rules

      "There is a problem with their business plan. It only works if h264 is the only serious choice of codec for online video streaming."

      No it doesn't, online video streaming on the internet has not been a significant factor in the use of H.264 until relatively recently. H.264 is pretty much the current de-facto standard for video compression in the consumer electronics world. It's use in almost all recent HD digital TV standards, in professional products for production and broadcasting copmpanies, in mobile phones, Blu-ray players, digital cameras, video cameras and in software decoders on PCs and Macs. The H.264 patent holders get paid royalties on millions of units of products like these that use it every year. It's already an widely used standard and will be a cash cow for the patent holders for yeards to come, regardless of whether or not it's used on YouTube, so I doubt inernet streaming has figured that highly in their business plans until now, though I guess that could be changing.

  17. davenewman

    Ask Fraunhofer

    Since it is Fraunhofer, in Germany, that actually gives out the licences and collects the royalties, has anyone asked them what their attitude is to VP8 or free use of H264 in software (as opposed to hardware decoders)?

    They do not operate under US law, and are a private foundation incorporating the old German government computing research centres (GMD), not a company dependent on software or hardware sales.

  18. Muckminded


    It will take years for this challenge to squeeze through the organs of justice, given the sums of cash involved on either side (formula: yearsOfLitigation = companyCabbage / oneBillionDollars).

    Admittedly, my formula will not bear scientific scrutiny. It doesn't even like being looked at. But some of that other stuff is true.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    VP8 The first in-depth technical analysis Not looking so good and very blurry

    The first in-depth and perhaps only real technical analysis have a read of this


    Overall, VP8 appears to be significantly weaker than H.264 compression-wise. The primary weaknesses mentioned above are the lack of proper adaptive quantization, lack of B-frames, lack of an 8×8 transform, and non-adaptive loop filter. With this in mind, I expect VP8 to be more comparable to VC-1 or H.264 Baseline Profile than with H.264. Of course, this is still significantly better than Theora, and in my tests it beats Dirac quite handily as well.




    Finally, the problem of patents appears to be rearing its ugly head again. VP8 is simply way too similar to H.264: a pithy, if slightly inaccurate, description of VP8 would be “H.264 Baseline Profile with a better entropy coder”.




    Overall performance: Even on the absolute fastest settings with multithreading, their encoder is slow. On my 1.6Ghz Core i7 it gets barely 26fps encoding 1080p; not even enough to reliably do real-time compression. x264, by comparison, gets 101fps at its fastest preset “ultrafast”. Now, sure, I don’t expect On2’s encoder to be anywhere near as fast as x264, but being unable to stream HD video on a modern quad-core system is simply not reasonable in 2010. Additionally, the speed options are extraordinarily confusing and counterintuitive and don’t always seem to work properly; for example, fast encoding mode (–rt) seems to be ignored completely in 2-pass.


    this is just a small sample of the details, lots more to read and learn on the original URL above so make the time and read it all if you care to understand ...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The problem being...

      That the report was written by a developer of x264 - so could be regarded as somewhat biased. I'm not saying he may not be correct, but he certainly starts off from a biased start point.

      I've had a chat with our WebM guy here (porting it to our hw as I write), and it's not so bad.


    H.264 patents

    Fine. Let's have the confrontation. Now.

  21. Rattus Rattus

    Larry Horn's statement

    basically comes across as "We're currently trying to figure out if there's any way we can convince people to pay us for Google's product."

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    business is business

    I know all the justifications about business at all costs, responsibility to shareholders, the bottom line, la-la-la-la but this really is lame

    lame, tiresome, small, petty, banal, attention-seeking, childish, posturing, needless and grasping.

    are we really supposed to admire these people?

  23. Penti

    MPEG-LA turn patent troll

    Seriously MPEG-LA together with it's CEO Lawrence A. Horn which is already a troll, turns patent troll now with this bullshit, they need to fire him immediately. MPEG-LA has no mandate to do this, it's suppose to be a RAND patent pool for MPEG-related technologies not trolling against competing tech. It undermines their own licensing effort, large licensors might just grow tired of them and move elsewhere like VA Licensing or form a another pool. And licensees won't trust them a bit.

    Just destroy Larry Horn, his trolling business on the side (MobileMedia Ideas LLC) or you're destroying your chance of having licensees have a good trust and standing, or of trusting MPEG-LA altogether. They will lose any faith in you. Conflicts will arise everywhere but the main people behind it won't like nothing to do with it as it hurts them too. MPEG has themselves made moves towards creating a royalty free codec, they will condemn them and speak against them for their actions.

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