Nokia uses its patents to block Google's VP8 video codec

Nokia took this unusual step to prevent Google from forcing its proprietary technology on others, a company spokesman said

Nokia said on Monday it is not prepared to license any of its patented technologies that might be essential to the VP8 video codec that is backed by Google.

VP8 is a video compressing technology that was acquired by Google in 2010 from On2 Technologies, and Google is trying to make it a worldwide standard. Google uses VP8 and the open source audio codec Vorbis in WebM, an open source project sponsored by Google that was released under a royalty-free license.

Google announced in January 2011 that it would remove support in its Chrome browser for the widely used H.264 codec and start supporting open codecs like WebM and Theora.

Nokia isn't favoring Google's WebM efforts though. On March 21, Nokia filed a list of patents with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) that are allegedly infringed by VP8 in an effort to block the codec from becoming an Internet standard. Nokia is unwilling to grant VP8 the use of its intellectual property under any terms, it said in its intellectual property rights disclosure to the IETF.

Nokia favors open and collaborative efforts for standardization, company spokesman Mark Durrant said in an email on Monday commenting on Nokia's IETF filings. "[But] we are now witnessing one company attempting to force the adoption of its proprietary technology, which offers no advantages over existing, widely deployed standards such as H.264 and infringes Nokia's intellectual property," he said.

"As a result, we have taken the unusual step of declaring to the Internet Engineering Task Force that we are not prepared to license any Nokia patents which may be needed to implement its RFC6386 specification for VP8, or for derivative codecs," he added.

A Google spokesman declined to comment on the matter. An IETF spokesman reached on Monday couldn't immediately comment.

This is not the first obstacle for VP8. Patents management company MPEG LA, in defiance of Google, had called on owners of patents that could be essential to the VP8 codec in 2011 to join forces in order to facilitate the development of a joint patent license to garner royalty payments for companies that wanted to protect their intellectual property.

At the beginning of this month, however, MPEG LA and Google settled their dispute and signed a licensing deal. Under the agreement, MPEG LA will discontinue its efforts to form a VP8 patent pool. Google got a license to techniques that may be essential to VP8 and earlier-generation VPx video compression technologies under patents owned by 11 patent holders, with the right to sublicense them to any VP8 user.

The financial terms of that agreement were not disclosed.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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