MPEG LA Coming After Google's VP8 Video Codec
Is Google’s VP8 video codec free from patent liability? We’re about to find out. MPEG LA, the consortium that controls the AVC/H.264 video standard, issued a call for patents thought to be essential to VP8 today, a first step in the creation of a patent pool for the specification.
And an expected one too. MPEG LA CEO Larry Horn warned that this was coming. Here’s an excerpt from my conversation with him last May–the day after Google announced its WebM video format and release of the VP8 video codec as an open standard:
JP: Let me ask you this: Are you creating a patent pool license for VP8 and WebM? Have you been approached about creating one?
Larry Horn: Yes, in view of the marketplace uncertainties regarding patent licensing needs for such technologies, there have been expressions of interest from the market urging us to facilitate formation of licenses that would address the market’s need for a convenient one-stop marketplace alternative to negotiating separate licenses with individual patent holders in accessing essential patent rights for VP8 as well as other codecs, and we are looking into the prospects of doing so.
Evidently, the prospects were pretty good, because the group is moving forward with the patent pool, and if it’s able to pull one together, Google’s royalty-free video standard may not be royalty-free for much longer. Which raises a few questions: If VP8 isn’t royalty-free, who’s going to foot the bill? And is Google willing to indemnify partners who opt to use it?