The MPEG LA consortium has made a call to arms to prepare an attack against the VP8 video codec and WebM container opened by Google.
A year ago, Google finalised their acquisition of On2 Technologies for 106.5 million dollars. Following this purchase, Google announced the opening of the VP8 video codec a few weeks later via the creation of the WebM format.
WebM is an open file format for web multimedia with a structure based on the Matroska container to be able to allow audio streams encoded in Ogg Vorbis and video streams encoded in VP8.
With VP8, Google is looking to promote a standard open video codec free from royalties, but it appears that the MPEG LA doesn’t share the same point of view. The consortium, which brings together numerous members including Apple, controls a range of royalties providing access to the AVC/H.264 video encoding format, a direct competitor to WebM/VP8.
MPEG LA has renounced the collection of royalties linked to free video services on the Internet which use H.264, but not other products and services. Since the announcement of the opening of VP8, the consortium has continued to raise issues related to patent violations, with a solid complaint now being formed.
Last week, MPEG LA launched "a call to patents essential to the VP8 standard and the codec used to display video images". They were referencing the definition of the VP8 technology in the WebM project. The consortium is therefore looking to group together everyone who holds patents linked to VP8 so that they can develop a grouped license. Could this be so that they can get royalty payments in the event of a future law suit?
This isn’t yet being looked at but is it sure that MPEG LA considers that Google doesn’t control all of the patents linked to VP8. Microsoft recently stated that they would support WebM (and would not be attacking them) on the condition that Google would pay damages to all third party companies affected in the event that patent infringements were confirmed… with such infringements possibly coming about from legal action undertaken by MPEG LA.
On their side, Google are also looking to bring certain groups together. In a press release sent to The Register, Google indicated that "the large majority of the industry supports free and open development. We are currently forming a large coalition of hardware and software companies who don’t want to pay any eventual intellectual property rights for WebM".