MPEG LA Forces Huawei to Pay (for H.264 that is)

In this January 2019 article in Streaming Media Magazine, I reported that two patent holders in the MPEG-LA patent portfolio group had sued Huawei and ZTE in Germany for patent infringement and had won. As stated therein, “the judgment was particularly onerous; not only did the court order the two companies to stop selling the offending mobile phones in Germany, they ordered that “all such products in their possession or the possession of third parties must be recalled and destroyed.”

Basically, Huawei was forced to decide between licensing H.264 technology from the MPEG LA group or exiting Germany and other markets served via the infringing phone. Well, according to this press release, Huawei chose the former and is now MPEG-LA’s newest customer. If it hasn’t happened already, perhaps the next call Huawei will receive will be from Nokia, who in 2017 collected $2 billion from Apple, in part as the first of a series of payments for H.264 usage (there were 32 patents involved, of which 14 related to H.264).

For the record, I support every company getting as much as they legally can for their investment in IP and congratulate the good folks at MPEG LA and their H.264 patent group. On the other hand, suits like these make the royalty-free AV1 codec look better and better, at least until someone challenges the IP in the AV1 codec and wins.

Sigh. The biggest problem with all codecs is that no one really seems to know how much it will cost to use them.

About Jan Ozer

I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks, and evaluate new encoders and codecs.

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