Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 25th Mar 2013 21:09 UTC
Legal Late last week, Nokia dropped what many consider to be a bomb on the WebM project: a list of patents that VP8 supposedly infringes in the form of an IETF IPR declaration. The list has made the rounds around the web, often reported as proof that VP8 infringes upon Nokia's patents. All this stuff rang a bell. Haven't we been here before? Yup, we have, with another open source codec called Opus. Qualcomm and Huawei made the same claims as Nokia did, but they turned out to be complete bogus. As it turns out, this is standard practice in the dirty business of the patent licensing industry.
Thread beginning with comment 556639
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
Big picture...
by Valhalla on Tue 26th Mar 2013 08:42 UTC
Member since:

Looking at the big picture here, MPEGLA members wants to corner the market for video codecs so that they can continously collect royalties on all things video, be it on the web or on physical media.

As such, vp8 is a huge threat to them on the web as it is a quality video codec which is royalty free to use and implement.

Worse than the existance of VP8 is the proposition of it becoming a HTML5 video standard and thus mandatory to implement for HTML5 compliancy, same goes for RTC.

Obviously this would mean an even lesser incentive to licence their h264 codec through royalties for anything web video related, as you can suddenly be certain that by targeting the royalty free vp8 codec you will support all HTML5 compatible browsers.

When MPEGLA agreed to back off vp8 through their deal with Google it seemed almost to good to be true given what they stood to lose on vp8 becoming a web standard, as it turns out it likely was. It seems to me now that MPEGLA were well aware of the pending Nokia patent suit, and possibly others lined up behind it.

As it stands, Nokia (or any other patent sock puppet which comes after them) doesn't have to win in court, they just need to cast enough of a patent cloud over vp8 for it to not be accepted as a HTML5/RTC standard codec.

H.264 and H.265 can never become official mandatory standard codecs due to demanding royalties, but that doesn't matter since if the standard can't be vp8 which is a technically competitive codec, w3c will be forced to use a technically ancient codec like mpeg2.

And if mpeg2 is used as standard and thus mandatory to implement, it will still never be used in practice due to it's poor quality by todays standards.

This will lead to h.264 (and later h.265) being the 'standard' in practice and allow MPEGLA members to harvest royalties.

Sad thing is that even if Google wins this patent fight with Nokia, there will likely be another patent holder outside of MPEGLA suddenly emerging with a claim on vp8 technology which will then have to be dragged through courts.

In short, MPEGLA will fight tooth and nail to prevent any competition to their video codecs and by continously having vp8 being under patent infringement claims (they don't need to hold any water when it comes to actual court scrutiny) MPEGLA will be able to prevent vp8 becoming mandatory in HTML5 browsers and RTC.

As such I now doubt we will ever be able to enjoy the benefits of a royalty free quality codec being standarised across browsers. MPEGLA members stand to lose to much potential royalty revenue and will make sure there's always going to be some patent cloud lingering over vp8, atleast until h264/h265 is so cemented as the 'de facto' HTML5/RTC standard that it doesn't matter anymore.

Result is that everyone but the MPEGLA members lose out, as competition in this field has been non-existant until vp8 showed up and will go back to being non-existant without vp8.

It also poses a barrier of entry through the royalties which prevent many smaller players aswell as open source projects, a barrier which would not exist should we have had a royalty free standarised video codec.

Reply Score: 5

v RE: Big picture...
by bowkota on Tue 26th Mar 2013 09:09 in reply to "Big picture..."
RE[2]: Big picture...
by Valhalla on Tue 26th Mar 2013 10:20 in reply to "RE: Big picture..."
Valhalla Member since:

VP8 is and has been inferior to H.264 in every single way. Performance, power savings, adoption, you name it.

Adoption, obviously given how long h264 has been around. Power savings, I have not seen any comparison between hardware based h264 and vp8, do you have any links? Performance, depends on what you mean by 'performance', decoding/encoding speed? visual quality (here h264 is better due to excellent mature encoders like x264 but certainly not by a wide margin) ?

And it's certainly not inferior in cost.

Good thing VP9 is "open". Look at the endless amount of information on it and the wide spread adoption. Oh no wait, thats H.265 !

Yes it's open, here is the git repository where you can follow the actual development in real-time, modify/build it yourself and use it, send patches, examine the code.;a=summary

The vp9 spec is not yet finalized but there are design documentation and progress reports:

What part of your definition of open does this fail to qualify for?

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: Big picture...
by Kochise on Tue 26th Mar 2013 10:30 in reply to "RE: Big picture..."
Kochise Member since:

Perhaps because H265 patented obvious themes for consumption, performance and since it's an evolution of H264, doesn't require to change everything for an implementer POV ? Perhaps also the mpegla 'mafia' that 'force' industrials that have some parts into the play to get cut-off of royalties back ?

Hard to say, because obviously everything is made to hold technical progress and freedom with proprietary racket. If it was at least free, but not !


Edited 2013-03-26 10:35 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Big picture...
by Radio on Tue 26th Mar 2013 10:35 in reply to "RE: Big picture..."
Radio Member since:

So, h.265, a codec developed and owned by major companies who are willing to earn royalties from it and lock competition out, is likely to become widespread? What a surprise!

And how lucky we are, us, end-users! Corporations know what is best for us! Let us prosternate in deference! Please milk me.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: Big picture...
by lemur2 on Tue 26th Mar 2013 10:56 in reply to "RE: Big picture..."
lemur2 Member since:

here's a bigger picture for you.

VP8 is and has been inferior to H.264 in every single way. Performance, power savings, adoption, you name it.

VP8 is not inferior in performance to h.264 except for just one factor: encoding speed. In every other respect VP8 can match or exceed h.264 performance.

VP8 is actually less computationally expensive to decode than h.264. This is because VP8 puts much of the "hard work" into the encoder process rather than the decoder.

If by "power savings", you actually meant a hardware decoder versus a software one, be advised that VP8 is a part of the Android Multimedia Supported Formats:

Here is a list of ARM SoCs (which are used in mobile phones and tablets) from different manufacturers showing which support VP8 and which do not:

Unless you buy Apple gear then your (recent) mobile device is more likely than not to support VP8 decode in hardware. VP8 is getting quite prevalent in terms of adoption, just about every current Android device on the market would support VP8 decode in hardware.

Since VP8 is easier to decode than h.264, and since it now has hardware decoding in mobile SoCs, then VP8 is actually likely to out-perform h.264 in terms of power savings.

Good thing VP9 is "open". Look at the endless amount of information on it and the wide spread adoption. Oh no wait, thats H.265 !

"Open" means royalty-free, anyone may implement it. That is most certainly VP9 and not h.265.

Here is an alpha-version implementation of VP9 you may wish to investigate:

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE: Big picture...
by galvanash on Tue 26th Mar 2013 15:32 in reply to "Big picture..."
galvanash Member since:

It seems to me now that MPEGLA were well aware of the pending Nokia patent suit, and possibly others lined up behind it.

There is no pending Nokia patent suit. An IETF IPR declaration is not a suit - it is a commonplace procedure for patent holders to make the IETF aware of 3rd party patents that apply to pending drafts so that they can be reviewed for suitability.

I would be very surprised if Nokia actually files suit against Google over this. They are simply trying to bar VP8 from being used in IETF standards, partially to just cause Google grief and get some free press, but more than likely just to throw everything at the wall and see if anything sticks. They are essentially gaming the system to get free patent reviews - if there is anything to this we will know if a few months.

The reality is that I doubt MPEGLA knew anything about this - it is probably the other way around... Nokia threw this together as soon as they found out Google caved to MPEGLA, hoping for an easy payoff (or possibly to have some additional leverage in settling their other lawsuits with Google). If any of these patents are found to be applicable that is exactly what will likely happen - no lawsuit required (blood sucking lawyers are very expensive)...

Edited 2013-03-26 15:34 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3