Re: [rtcweb] Google VP8 Patent Grant for third parties [Was Re:Proposal for H.263 baseline codec]

"Paul E. Jones" <> Thu, 05 April 2012 06:47 UTC

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From: "Paul E. Jones" <>
To: 'Basil Mohamed Gohar' <>,
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Date: Thu, 05 Apr 2012 02:47:34 -0400
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Subject: Re: [rtcweb] Google VP8 Patent Grant for third parties [Was Re:Proposal for H.263 baseline codec]
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> What you are asking for is something no one in the media industry offers
> for something comparable.

I know, but the reluctance to do so means that Google knows that there *may
be* IPR on VP8.  This is just the facts of life.  I believe it's extremely
important that people know and understand that nobody knows the IPR
situation with VP8.  If they did, they would offer indemnity, because there
is nothing to worry about, but nobody can.

> As was pointed out elsewhere on this list, even
> the H.264 standard has been updated to include additional patents over
> time deemed to be "essential".  One could be non-infringing in the past
> and suddenly find yourself infringing.

Indeed, but I have a significantly higher level of confidence that I can
identify all of the legitimate companies with IPR on H.264, whereas I
haven't a clue where to start (outside of Google) for VP8. 
> I don't know what all of Google's public statements about VP8 IPR status
> are, but we know that the patents they own are granted via the license,
> and we know that a public call for the formation of a patent pool over a
> year ago has yielded not even a follow-up announcement from MPEG-LA.
> Furthermore, not a single patent has been brought forward publicly as
> being even remotely doubtful as to its application to VP8.

If I owned IPR on VP8 (which I don't personally; can't speak for my
employer), I certainly would not tell you and I would not join a patent
pool, either.  I would wait until you adopt VP8, build it into software and
hardware products, have it massively deployed, and then I'd come along and
collect my royalties.  There is absolutely no financial incentive for an IPR
holder to join a patent pool.

H.264, on the other hand, is different.  H.264 was developed jointly by
video coding experts in ISO and ITU.  As an part of that participation, they
are requested to disclose IPR.  And, respectable companies will disclose
their IPR.   Every company participating in that work has a vested interest
in the success of H.264.  Some are looking for royalties and some are
looking for the technology to enable their products.  Thus, the formation of
the patent pool is in the best interest of all involved so that people will
adopt the technology.  While there are those not in the pool, they have
submitted IPR statements to the ITU.
> So, until there is some actual evidence that there is an IPR threat, then
> with all due respect, statements such as yours must be classified as
> spreading FUD, because they serve to drive adoption away from a free,
> open, unencumbered standard to one that is on baseless claims.

My statement is intended to spread FUD, but not maliciously; I'm trying to
be helpful.  You SHOULD be fearful of not only patent trolls, but also
legitimate companies who are not obligated to disclose their IPR and who
have a vested interest in H.264 and who will take full advantage of their
position should VP8 be widely deployed.  You SHOULD feel some level of
uncertainty about the IPR situation surrounding VP8.  And, you SHOULD doubt
any claim made that there is no IPR on VP8.

While there may be undisclosed IPR on H.264, I find it hard to believe that
there would be much, if any, at this point.  Keep in mind that H.264 is
product of the joint effort of a bunch of people who are experts in the
field.  I would be suspicious of any company not involved in the development
of H.264 claiming to have IPR, because somebody in the joint committee
probably owns that IPR.  Sure, there might be something ... something very
minor.  Perhaps.

And what if there is something that comes up?  Every company participating
in the work on H.264 would have a vested interest in disproving the claims,
particularly if whomever makes claims refuses to license or tries to demand
insane royalties.  I could imagine a stream of expert witnesses coming into
a courtroom to defend H.264.  With no vested interest in VP8, who cares if
you get sued for 50% of product revenues?

Understand, all of this commentary has nothing to do with the technical
merits of VP8 vs. H.264.  There are risks with selecting either technology.
That said, I personally have a much higher degree of confidence that I will
not get sued out of business if I were to select H.264, contact all of the
IPR holders registered in the ITU and ISO patent databases, and negotiate a
license directly (or via MPEG-LA when possible).  I have no degree of
confidence whatsoever with VP8, except that Google was kind enough to make
its IPR available at no cost.  I just don't know who else is out there, and
it might be 10 or 15 H.264 patent holders, all with an interest to exercise
their rights when the time comes.