Patent pool may be in the works for 'free' VP8 codec

A spokesperson for MPEG LA, the licensing provider for the H.264/AVC portfolio, confirmed to Betanews this afternoon that it is actively considering taking the first step in the process of collecting revenue from the distributors of the video codec that Google released under a free and open source license on Wednesday.

As MPEG LA CEO Larry Horn first told The Wall Street Journal's John Paczkowski, the licensor is open to the possibility of the creation of a patent pool for collecting royalties pertaining to the essential patents used by the VP8 codec, part of the open source multimedia technology that Google has dubbed WebM.

"We are looking into the prospect of offering such a patent pool license based on interest from the market," the spokesperson told us. "Therefore it is too early in the process to discuss how such a license might work."


The establishment of a patent pool, on the one hand, might be a friendlier and more open handed approach to handling the problem of VP8's patent encroachment, which independent video engineers including x264's Jason Garrett-Glaser believe will be a problem with respect to VP8. The alternative option, a video technology business source told Betanews last month, would be to seek legal action soon.

For Google to be open to the notion of a patent pool, it would have to be willing to lose all of the money it sinks into royalties. However, the "on the other hand" option is that the establishment of a VP8 patent pool, should MPEG LA choose to go that route, may be a necessary first step in order to demonstrate in a court of law Google's disregard for patent holders' rights, should Google choose to decline any invitation to pay royalties.

Even if Google were to accept the notion of a patent pool, it may not be able to address the question of the opening up of VP8's source code -- an affair with which MPEG LA may not have any involvement. Conceivably, individual patent holders may still seek legal action against Google for allegedly licensing the source code without authorization, even if Google were to pay royalties for the rights to license the actual codec.

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