- (For the general video codec problem see: Audio-video patents)
MPEG LA is an organisation (which could be called a patent cartel) which holds a collection of software patents which it claims are essential for the implementation of MPEG video formats including H.264. MPEG LA is in no way affiliated with the MPEG standards group.
MPEG LA's patents are the reason H.264 was excluded from the HTML5 specification.
Details of their patent thickets
MPEG LA is the licensing authority for a thicket of over 1,000 patents, held by 29 companies. MPEG LA claims that 1,000 of these patents must be licensed in order to use the common H.264 video format. which it claims are requried for use of MPEG video formats. The holders of these patents include Columbia University, Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute of Korea (ETRI), France Télécom, Fujitsu, LG Electronics, Matsushita (Panasonic), Mitsubishi, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Philips, Robert Bosch GmbH, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba, and Victor Company of Japan (JVC). The last MPEG LA listed patents don't expire until 2027 in the US.
As of February 2010, MPEG LA lists 639 companies which are paying this patent tax.
Microsoft is both a large owner, with 75 patents in this pool, and is also a large licensee, paying about twice as much to MPEG LA as they receive in royalties.
MPEG LA's patent aggression
- Audiovox Disputes MPEG LA Lawsuit, 26 Dec 2007, Twice.com
- MPEG LA Lawsuit Against Alcatel Lucent Settled, 29 Mar 2009, MPEG LA PR
- MPEG LA Sues Apex Digital, Inc. for Breach of MPEG-2 License Agreement; Apex Fails to Pay..., 8 Aug 2002, AllBusiness
- Patent Litigation Weekly: MobileMedia's Unusual Patent Infringement Campaign, 19 Apr 2010, Pat Lit Weekly (MPEG LA owns "MobileMedia")
- Also related: Daily Dose - Nero AG Hits MPEG-LA With Antitrust Lawsuit, 25 May 2010, Javalobby
Threatening WebM, VP8, and Ogg Theora
MPEG LA has said that it considers Ogg Theora to be infringing their patents, and that they are looking into building a list of patents for which they would demand royalties for WebM.
Royalty-free "Internet Broadcast" licence
- (See also: MP4)
The text of the 2010 licence is not publicly available, but an older version from 2002 has been published by the FSF:
When Wikipedia was debating whether to allow use of the MP4 format under this licence, their Deputy General Counsel said that the 2002 version was "quite similar" to the 2010, and he used the 2002 version in his explanations without ever noting that anything was different in the 2010 version, so it's likely they are very similar. A lot of useful information about this licence can be found in Wikipedia's MP4 RFC.
MPEG LA isn't the only group you have to pay
LSI Corporation (formerly LSI Logic Corporation) withdrew from MPEG LA on 15 July 2007. The patent US7,020,200 had been part of the "AVC Patent Licensing Program".
It is also possible that other patent holders are preparing a patent ambush.
Another possibility is to use software from 20 years ago, such as the ITU h.261 video format, some parts of which were defined in, or before, November 1988. The 1988 spec had parts that were not defined. The 1990 H.261 spec filled in these parts.
Related pages on en.swpat.org
- Wikipedia: MPEG LA
- Philips also has patents on mpeg
- mpeg-patents-faq ("especially for audio compression")
- No, you can’t do that with H.264, 2 Feb 2010, Ben Schwartz
- http://scratchpad.wikia.com/wiki/MPEG_patent_status - info and links about MPEG-1 (could be used to check if this page is correct regarding MPEG-1/h.261)
- 10 questions for MPEG LA on H.264, May 2010, Beta News - just before On2 VP8 was released as free software by Google
- Nero Files Antitrust Case Against MPEG LA, OSNews (see also: Antitrust law isn't solving the problems)
- MPEG LA Shrugs Off Antitrust Allegations, May 20th 2010
- Flash Co-Creator Jonathan Gay talks of the challenges they faced in using H.264 standard, June 2010, OS India
- Patent Status of MPEG-1,H.261 and MPEG-2, 20 July 2008, Josh Cogliati
- List of H.264 patents and expiration dates, 3 July 2009, Josh Cogliati
- MPEG LA Makes Free Internet Video Royalty Free Perpetually, 26 Aug 2010, OSNews
- MpegLA announces it's consolidated patent claims over H.264, with a list at the end with 17 of the patent holders
- MPEG LA's licensing terms
- The full list of patents
- The full list of the patent holders
- I counted on 23 May 2012
- http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2010/05/03/follow-up-on-html5-video-in-ie9.aspx Microsoft receives back from MPEG LA less than half the amount for the patent rights that it contributes
- "Google open video codec may face patent clash". http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/05/21/mpegla_mulls_patent_license_for_webm/. "Yes. In view of the marketplace uncertainties regarding patent licensing needs for such technologies, [...] in accessing essential patent rights for VP8 as well as other codecs, and we are looking into the prospects of doing so."
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