Following the state of intellectual property (IP)-related strategies is part of the job of any encoding professional. Here’s an update on two issues and my thoughts on the IP
status of the AOMedia Video 1 (AV1) codec.
One scary litigation from last year was Nokia
suing Apple for H.264 infringement, as Nokia
was pursuing an interesting strategy that
might have excluded encoder-related patents
from fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory
(FRAND) pricing restrictions that apply to technologies included as part of a standard (go2sm
.com/nokia). Apple and Nokia settled that litigation in May, with Apple paying Nokia an
undisclosed sum ( go2sm.com/applenokia). For
most of us small producers, this is meaningless,
but if you’re shipping boatloads of H.264 encoders, decoders, or both, and you’re not currently
writing a check to Nokia, expect a call soon.
Another IP-related turn from late 2016 was
the MPEG LA-sponsored DASH (dynamic adaptive streaming over HTTP) group. What I’ve
heard from several sources is that most large
companies intend to ignore the group unless
and until one or more of the group members
files an infringement suit. The collective thought
is that DASH is, in essence, a scheme involving
text-based manifest files, which is not particularly impressive to begin with, and that most
of the heavy lifting was done by Cisco, Qualcomm, and Microsoft, which aren’t part of the
royalty group and aren’t seeking royalties. With
proposed royalties totaling $30 million per year,
the larger companies seem willing to roll the
dice to invalidate the patents rather than ponying up voluntarily. Interestingly, the MPEG
LA licensee list for this group had zero entries
when I checked the list on June 8. So we’ll see.
Regarding the legal status of the Alliance for
Open Media’s AV1 codec, there’s a general feeling that AV1 will be challenged and will likely lose
because there “must” be some infringing technology in the codec. This is typified by comments
from Joe Inzerillo, CTO of BAMTech, who, during
a keynote talk at Streaming Media East, said that
“serious companies” shouldn’t waste time with a
“free” technology that ultimately is unproven legally. In my view, Joe is one of the brightest stars
in our universe, and certainly has access to better lawyers than I do, but I’m going to disagree.
First of all, the Alliance includes members like
Adobe, Amazon, AMD, ARM, Bitmovin, Broad-com, Chips&Media, Cisco, Google, Intel, Ittiam
Systems, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix, NVIDIA,
and Realtek, which are, in anyone’s view, some
pretty serious companies.
Second, before Google acquired On2, the
early VPx codecs had achieved significant success without any patent claims. This includes
Assuming that AV1 will wither due to IP claims
from the H.264/HEVC camp also assumes that
Google and all members of the Alliance bought
a pig in a poke, a potential problem they felt they
couldn’t defend in court or otherwise negotiate
away. Serious companies don’t do that.
I haven’t studied the underlying IP, so I can’t
render an informed decision. From my perspective, assuming companies with a combined market share of multiple billions are making a silly
IP-related decision is almost always an incorrect assumption.
AV1: Follow the Money
Jan Ozer ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a streaming
media producer and consultant, a frequent contributor to
industry magazines and websites on streaming-related topics,
and the author of Video Encoding by the Numbers. He blogs
frequently at streaminglearningcenter.com.
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