updated 08:40 pm EST, Thu March 3, 2011
Conflict centers around Google's free V8 codec
The Department of Justice is reportedly investigating antitrust allegations against codec licensing firm MPEG-LA and its members, which include tech heavyweights Apple and Microsoft. The probe is said to be focusing on possible anticompetitive actions aimed at Google and the search giant's V8 codec, which serves as a free alternative to MPEG LA's standards.
The DoJ is considering wether MPEG-LA may be using legal threats to discourage companies from using V8, unnamed sources have told the Wall Street Journal (sub. required). The possibility of becoming entangled in a patent infringement suit is said to be driving some companies to avoid V8 and opt for a licensing agreement through MPEG-LA for a competing standard such as H.264.
MPEG-LA manages a patent pool that includes intellectual property held by a long list of companies, including Microsoft, Apple, LG, Samsung, Sharp, and Toshiba, among others. The firm has called on its members to help pinpoint patents that they view as potentially infringed by Google's V8 standard, which is available through an open license without charging royalties.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs last year echoed MPEG-LA's stance, mentioning that open-source does not necessarily guarantee that a standard does not infringe on existing patents. Google product manager Mike Jazayeri suggests the claims are unfounded, as the search giant finished a "thorough investigation" of related patents.
The DoJ has yet to officially confirm the investigation. It remains unclear if the agency will find evidence of anticompetitive behavior and what, if any, action will be taken.