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12 firms claim Google's WebM violates H.264 video patents

updated 12:30 pm EDT, Fri July 29, 2011

12 groups tell MPEG-LA Google VP8 copies tech

The MPEG-LA video group's attempts to find patent violations in WebM proved successful as the company late Thursday claimed that 12 companies and organizations had their technology infringed. The so far unnamed dozen said the VP8 video codec underlying Google's format copied technology used in H.264, the standard MPEG-LA supports. The collective was considering forming a patent pool to demand licenses, and MPEG-LA was "facilitating that discussion," CNET was told.

The licensing agency stopped short of saying a lawsuit was incoming but, with Google allegedly infringing, would have to push Google to either license or risk legal action.

Google for its part has insisted WebM is royalty-free and that it doesn't violate patents. Even so, the company has changed its licensing to shield more developers with the anticipation of a lawsuit as a real possibility.

The prospect of a legal battle, along with vested interests in existing work and MPEG-LA, has led Apple and Microsoft to deliberately avoid including any WebM support in their own work. Early adopters are so far limited to Google itself as well as open-source advocates unwilling to pay for an H.264 license for web video, such as Mozilla (in Firefox) and Opera.



By Electronista Staff
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  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    -16

    not quite

    The MPEG-LA video group's attempts to find patent violations in WebM proved successful as the company late Thursday claimed that 12 companies and organizations had their technology infringed.

    Um, they haven't proved anything. All they've done so far is claim that patents are violated. And look who's complaining: The group behind licensing a competing codec who risk losing millions, if not billions, if WebM were to make any inroads.

    Just as easily a FUD-generated suit to kill WebM regardless of the validity of the claims.

  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +3

    That sound is the other shoe

    Actually, testudo, they don't technically need any of those 12 patents, whatever they are, to even be valid, because the court cases alone--even if every one of them gets invalidated--could take years and millions of dollars in defense costs. Which is exactly what everyone said was going to happen.

    And honestly, I'd be surprised if they COULDN'T find 12 "infringing" things in WebM, because the way software patents are set up the patent office will grant a patent on pretty much anything, and it's the patent holder's game to lose, so long as they've got the cash and will to drag it out in East Texas.

    The whole point of what everybody supporting H.264 has been saying is that the patent system is so broken that there's no way WebM was going to walk away without getting lawsuited by the MPEG-LA, plus probably several even-less-productive patent trolls (at least the MPEG-LA does something useful in addition to sue people), and Google isn't indemnifying anyone who does get sued anyway. So, given that, since H.264 is a technically superior codec with DRASTICALLY wider support than WebM it's kind of silly to go with the evil hiding in the bushes rather than the evil you know.

    Though at least the WebM specter pushed MPEG-LA into a more generous license.

    Regardless, this is yet another example of how broken the software patent system is.

  1. SockRolid

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Jan 2010

    +11

    "Yay open!" isn't a legal argument

    It's a big, complex legal world out there. But for some reason Google and their legal department seem unable to grasp this fact.

    Good luck in court Google. You're going to need it.

  1. chas_m

    Moderator

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +2

    Steve called this

    I swear, the man's psychic. He predicted this EXACTLY at one of his appearances at that Mossberg conference.

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