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Industry battles over VVC video patents

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty


The industry remains split on licensing for Versatile Video Coding (VVC) next generation video coding standard also known as H.266 and MPEG-I Part 3.

The H.266 VVC standard development was led by Fraunhofer HHI in Germany along with Apple, Ericsson, Intel, Huawei, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Sony. Any maker of next generation video system using the technology will need to licence the underlying patents from at least two organisations.

Both MPEG LA and Access Advance are launching patent pool license schemes that companies will have to use after the Media Coding Industry Forum (MC-IF) failed to find consensus in the 49 companies involved.

“Pooling as a mechanism for patent licensing will make it easier for implementers to bring to market early their devices and services based on VVC. Although it was an MC-IF objective, consensus around a single administrator was elusive. If the result is two pools, this is better than the prospect of an implementer seeking out a licence from each of the 49 holders of VVC-essential patents,” said Jud Cary, President of MC-IF.

VVC has the potential to achieve the same level of perceptual quality as prior video codecs with up to a 50 percent improvement in video coding efficiency, supporting 4K and 8K Ultra High Definition (UHD) and High Dynamic Range (HDR) video, telemedicine, online gaming, virtual 360° video and adaptive streaming applications.

There had been a potential split in patent licensing between MPEG LA, which handles the previous MPEG standards (including HEVC) as well as Qi wireless charging, electric vehicle charging and even CRISPR genome editing patents, and Access Advance which has had an HEVC, H.265 license pool since 2015.

The MC-IF wanted to avoid the perceived confusion with both having patent pool licensing for the previous technology HEVC.

Next: Separate VVC schemes


Although the participants did not find consensus around a single pool administrator, they found that VVC Pool Fostering gave early insight to participants in the VVC patent landscape and introduced some to pooling as an important mechanism for licensing standard essential patents, said MC-IF.

In the meantime MPEG LA launched its VVC scheme this week.

“MPEG LA congratulates the MCI-IF and its participants for their pool fostering initiative preparing the market for a VVC pool license.  MC-IF’s work has been of immeasurable benefit, and MPEG LA was pleased to cooperate in that process,” said Larry Horn, President and CEO of MPEG LA.

“Building on MC-IF’s work, MPEG LA is moving ahead with the next step listening to, working with and leading MC-IF participants and others to make yet another breakthrough generation of digital video compression technology widely accessible to the market under reasonable, trusted, transparent and non-discriminatory licensing conditions,” he added

“MPEG LA applauds the work of leading technology innovators from around the world whose research and development investments have made VVC possible, and welcomes them to join MPEG LA’s license development effort,” said Bill Geary, MPEG LA’s Vice President of Business Development.

Although only issued patents will be included in the license, patent applications with claims that owners believe are essential to the VVC standard and likely to issue in a patent also may be submitted in order to participate in the license development process

Access Advance is planning to launch a platform license that would a stand-alone VVC Platform License, a simplified stand-alone HEVC Platform License, and a Joint HEVC + VVC Platform License that is expected to provide a substantial discount for products with both VVC and HEVC technologies.

“The marketplace, including input we’ve seen from the MC-IF process, has been clear that both patent owners and patent implementers desire licensing clarity for VVC as soon as possible, as well as a licensing structure that can seamlessly incorporate multiple video codecs into a single license platform,” said Peter Moller, CEO of Access Advance.

“While there is still work to be done in reaching a final consensus on rates and certain other terms, we are confident that our draft Overview provides a structure that will meet with broad approval and allow us to establish a “one stop shop” Licensing Platform for VVC and HEVC—one that will meet the needs of a substantial majority of stakeholders and give the market the clarity it wants now.”

“We welcome all companies having a good faith belief that they have one or more VVC essential patents to join the discussions and receive a copy of the Overview,” said Moller. “We are also willing to make a version of the Overview available to anyone – including patent implementers without VVC patents – who have a bona-fide reason to receive it. 

www.mc-if.org; www.mpegla.com; accessadvance.com/

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