MPEG LA says 12 parties have essential WebM patents
The hopes that the VP8 codec at the heart of Google's open source WebM video standard would remain unchallenged in the patent arena are diminishing after the MPEG LA says 12 parties hold patents that its evaluators consider essential to the codec. The disclosure came in a recent interview with StreamingMedia.com. MPEG LA says that, in response to their call for essential patents in February, a number of parties submitted patents for evaluation and twelve of those parties' patents have been examined and found to be essential to VP8.
The parties involved are as yet unnamed and MPEG LA told patent analyst Florian Mueller that "confidentiality precludes [MPEG LA] from disclosing the identity of the owners". Mueller thinks it is likely that there is an overlap between the twelve companies and the members of the MPEG LA AVC/H.264 patent pool.
No VP8 patent pool has been formed yet; the MPEG LA says it met with the patent holders in late June and is "continuing to facilitate that discussion" but the decision to form a pool is up to the patent holders. MPEG LA points out that its purpose is to act as a clearing house for companies to acquire licenses to as much "essential intellectual property as possible in a single licence", rather than companies having to negotiate terms with every patent holder. It also notes that it does not bring infringement cases as it holds no patents; such action would be up to the individual patent holders.
When asked for comment by StreamingMedia.com, Google responded to the MPEG LA's interview saying it is "firmly committed to the project and establishing an open codec for HTML5 video" and noting the April launch of the WebM CCL, a community cross licencing agreement for essential WebM related patents. WebM was launched by Google in May 2010 as a royalty free open source alternative to AVC/H.264, a standard format which is royalty and patent encumbered. Although questions have been raised about the WebM format, it has been adopted by Firefox and Opera as the only video format they support for HTML5 video.