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

"Paul E. Jones" <paulej@packetizer.com> Fri, 06 April 2012 02:04 UTC

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From: "Paul E. Jones" <paulej@packetizer.com>
To: "'Silvia Pfeiffer'" <silviapfeiffer1@gmail.com>
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Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2012 22:04:42 -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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Silvia,

> > Motorola is a known patent holder.  So if Microsoft.  I assume
> > Microsoft elected to ignore Motorola's patent claims, and I assume
> > Motorola ignored Microsoft's patents, too, as I'm sure there would
> > have been a reciprocity agreement in place otherwise.  I don't know,
> > but if you want to use H.264, then you would have known to talk to
> Motorola and MS.
> 
> So what's the point in having the patent pool if you have to talk to all
> the individual patent owners anyway?

Motorola is not part of the pool, I do not believe.  I would assume one
would not have to talk to those that do participate in the pool, but that
may not be true, either.  In any case, the pool certainly makes it easier to
license the collective set of patents that are listed in the pool.

> > The "why" is unknown. It might be that a license was acquired. It
> > might be that patent holders do not care since the same companies are
> > already licensing their patents.  Perhaps the usage is not as high as
> > other codecs, including MP3 and G.729?
> 
> You might be surprised about the usage - a substantial amount of games use
> Vorbis because they don't have to pay for a license. Indeed, it is well
> known that Microsoft's Halo used Vorbis. For that very reason, I doubt
> that any of those companies acquired a patent license from any company
> claiming to own a patent on Vorbis or Speex. In fact, since nobody has
> claimed to have such patents, how would you even know who to license it
> from?

One would not.  And, one would still have to pay through the nose,
potentially, for patent infringement.  That's the problem with patents and
technology where the patent landscape is entirely unknown.
 
> >  The fact there isn't a lawsuit does not mean these are free from
> > patents, unless the technology is so old patents are expired.
> > (I think that's one argument for using H.261, in spite of its small
> > video
> > sizes.)
> 
> Existing lawsuits are the only quantitative measure that is available to
> find out about whether somebody is prepared to fight for their patents on
> a technology. Even patent pools don't work for this, apparently.

Can't agree with that one.  Recall the GIF file format?  Well after it
became widely used, Unisys went around forcing people to pay royalties.  How
many years did people believe that was free?
 
> > You're ignoring one point I made.  Those involved in the creation of
> > H.264 have quite likely filed IPR statements with ISO or ITU.  If some
> > other company were to come out of the closet on this with something
> > that blindsides the industry, the industry would fight it.  At the
> > very least, whatever bit of IPR that is claimed would have to be put
> > into perspective with respect to the other hundreds of patents on H.264.
> 
> If somebody was to come out of the woodworks over VP8, I'd expect Google
> to fight them. And all the other companies that have now invested into
> VP8. I don't think patents mean anything when it comes to the decision of
> whether to fight a patent claim or not: money talks.

By "fighting", I mean coming into court with evidence that would contradict
the infringed patent.  Google might be able to show that the particular way
that the bits of video are manipulated were already public or covered by one
of their patents, maybe not.

My feeling -- and that's all it is -- likely has a bunch more patent holders
who could demonstrate that their patents covered whatever it is that a
patent troll might try to claim.
 
> > VP8 is a technology where nobody other than Google has to answer about
> IPR.
> > BT, Oki, France Telecom, Qualcom, Nokia, Microsoft, Sony, NTT,
> > Motorola, TI, etc. are not obligated to make a statement, yet it would
> > not surprise me in the least if these companies do not have IPR.
> > Whether the enforce it is another matter.  They will only if it is in
> their interest.
> 
> If they've decided to use VP8, they license makes them take choose sides.
> There's no need for a patent pool to force them to take sides (in fact,
> that doesn't seem to have worked for Motorola and Microsoft anyway.

I don't understand your point here.  Perhaps I was not clear.  My point was
that these companies have no obligation to report IPR they hold on VP8,
whereas they do have some obligation to report on H.264.

It just comes down to the fact that I can *probably* identify all the patent
holders of H.264.  I might miss one, but it's doubtful that a legitimate
company would have not reported IPR by now.  That only leaves trolls to deal
with on H.264, and I suspect they would have a hard time making successful
claims.

VP8, though, is a wide-open opportunity for patent trolls and legit
companies alike to lay claim after the technology is widely deployed.  It
does not mean they will, but it's your gamble. :-)

Paul