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12 February 2011, 11:24

MPEG LA begins search for WebM/VP8 patents

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MPEG LA, the organisation which acts as a patent pool for many royalty bearing standards, including H.264 and MPEG2, has begun a search for patents which are considered "essential" to Google's open source and royalty free WebM/VP8 video codec. The move by MPEG LA is the first step in possibly creating a patent pool which would be able to demand royalties for the use of WebM/VP8.

This could severely inhibit the adoption of the codec which is the only video codec supported by Firefox's HTML5 <video> tag and will soon be the only codec supported by Google's Chrome browser. Use of WebM/VP8 is also endorsed by the Free Software Foundation. Apple and Microsoft do not use WebM/VP8 citing concerns about claims that it is unencumbered by patents; both companies have a preference for the H.264 standard and have patents in the H.264 pool. Microsoft has also gone as far as releasing plugins for Firefox and Chrome to enable H.264 support on Windows.

The royalty free, open source nature of WebM/VP8 has been cited by its supporters as the main reason for using it as the default video codec for web video, rather than the royalty-encumbered H.264. MPEG LA operate the pool for H.264's patents and royalties. The creation of a WebM/VP8 patent pool has been expected since May 2010 when MPEG LA's CEO, Larry Horn, said he was considering creating one.

The MPEG LA request asks for any parties who believe they have essential patents for the WebM/VP8 specification to make a submission by March 18th. Only parties who have had patents issued to them can participate, but the MPEG LA is prepared to evaluate patent applications which are likely to be issued.

No existing patents or parties are listed in the request for information; however, this does not mean that there has already been an unsuccessful search for patents. A recent request for patents related to the Multiview Video Codec (MVC) also cites no existing patents or parties.


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