And the fight continues. Only a few months after the desperate move by the MPEG-LA to get anyone – anyone – to submit patents to a possible WebM patent pool, Google and the WebM community have struck back. A whole slew of major companies have formed the WebM Community Cross-License initiative, basically a sort-of Open Invention Network for WebM.
The WebM Project announced the formation of this new initiative on its blog. Matt Frost, senior business product manager for the WebM Project, first details the wide industry support WebM currently enjoys. He also notes that the project is seeing more and more code contributions from individual contributors and independent implementations.
“We are pleased to now offer another way to contribute, through a licensing initiative that allows the community to help further support the WebM Project,” Frost details, “Google, Matroska and the Xiph.Org Foundation make the components of WebM openly available on royalty-free terms. Today we’re announcing the formation of the WebM Community Cross-License initiative with 17 founding members. Organizations that join the CCL agree to license patents they may have that are essential to WebM technologies to other members of the CCL.”
That’s an interesting idea, and clearly a thorough defensive move against any possible further actions by MPEG-LA. The MPEG-LA is led by a known patent troll, so it only makes for the WebM Project to set up a defensive perimeter. And it’s a damn fine perimeter too, looking at the list of companies that have already joined the initiative:
- Cisco Systems
- Google Inc.
- HiSilicon Technologies (for itself and its parent, Huawei)
- LG Electronics
- MIPS Technologies
- Mozilla Corporation
- Opera Software
- Quanta Computer
- STMicroelectronics (for itself and its 50/50 joint venture, ST-Ericsson)
- Texas Instruments
- Verisilicon Holdings
- Xiph.org Foundation
There’s some truly big names in there, like AMD, Logitech, LG, Samsung, and TI. If the MPEG-LA ever were to decide to make a move against WebM/VP8 (they say they’ve gotten patent submissions), they’d at least be facing a formidable foe. What’s most interesting about this – and which could take some of the sting out of MPEG-LA’s threats from the get-go – is that a few companies in the above list also happen to be licensors for H264, namely Cisco, LG and Samsung – not the smallest names either.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see other companies join this initiative as well, since a royalty-free video codec simply makes very good business sense – especially as YouTube inches closer to a WebM-only future.
Of course, in an ideal world, we wouldn’t need consortia like this, but as we know all too well, the world isn’t ideal, and as long as governments are more interested in lining their own pockets instead of actually doing what’s good for us, we’ll have to deal with things like this.