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Patents The Courts Apple

Audio and Video Patents Haunt Apple and Android 98

FlorianMueller writes "There seems to be no end to those smartphone patent suits. This week's special: audio and video patents that its owners claim are key to formats like MP3 and MPEG 2. The targets: Apple and Android. On Monday, Alcatel-Lucent subsidiary Multimedia Patent Trust filed a patent infringement suit in Southern California against Apple, LG (over 64 different phones including some Android-based ones), Canon and TiVo over four video patents. Fortunately for Apple and LG, none of the patents asserted against those two companies are likely to be in force by the time the judge decides, so there's no risk of an injunction. They may nevertheless have to pay for past damages. The same company once obtained a record $1.5 billion jury verdict against Microsoft but saw it slashed by a judge. And on Tuesday, Hybrid Audio LLC filed a suit in Eastern Texas, asserting a patent against various Apple products and certain Android-based products from HTC and Dell."
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Audio and Video Patents Haunt Apple and Android

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  • Re:Ridiculous (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @10:06AM (#34651184)

    The MPEG working group patented those formats almost 20 years ago

    Except for the Spectral Band Replication (SBR) extension for MP3pro and AACplus. That was developed and owned by a private company, so it's possible there are other components that are also privately owned, rather than MPEG owned.

  • Patent Gridlock (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @10:24AM (#34651296) Homepage Journal

    Are we there yet?

  • by pak9rabid ( 1011935 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @10:37AM (#34651382)
    I keep hearing people blame this shit on the lawyers, but I just don't buy it. Lawyers don't have 100% say in whether a company sues another company for patent infringement. The lawyers merely point this out to the people in charge (the CEO, board of directors, etc). THOSE are the guys pulling the trigger and making the final decision to open these bullshit lawsuits...the lawyers are just doing their jobs. And no, I am not a lawyer.
  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Thursday December 23, 2010 @11:12AM (#34651610) Homepage

    now we can see why google bought on2 and provided (eventually) a royalty-free license for anyone implementing free software versions of the VP8 algorithm.

    also we can see why the BBC developed "DIRAC" several years ago by combining the best algorithms they could find from *expired* patents.

    so when you have situations where both ends of the (video) conversation can be controlled, there do exist "ways out" that terminate the possibility for patent trolls to get at you. (such as, for example, youtube being controlled by google and eventually transmitting VP8-encoded video and also android and webkit having VP8 receiver CODECs) ... it's just that there is still a sticking-point (due to the amounts of money invested) where the "de-facto" standard comes out of an organisation where patents are the norm. so i think this is a good thing, ultimately, for these big players to be smacked about and to lose billions off their profit margins. perhaps they will start to pursue similar strategies that google has with VP8, and the BBC did with DIRAC.

  • Re:MPEG-LA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by arivanov ( 12034 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @11:30AM (#34651768) Homepage

    http://www.betanews.com/article/MPEG-LA-wins-major-MPEG2-settlement-from-AlcatelLucent/1269898704 [betanews.com]

    MPEG LA theoretically already dealt with it and Alcatel/Lucent has formally agreed to surrender all patents to them.

    I am surprised that the lawsuit regarding these patents has been filed. In fact, I suspect that a "contempt of court" ICBM is already somewhere around the highest point of its trajectory and is dispensing suitable size warheads.

    Even if it did not, such hiding of patents while participating in standard bodies is as per US law an antitrust matter. There is a significant body of precedent and most of it is not in favour of the companies which hid patents while participating in a standard body.

  • Re:MPEG-LA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @04:25PM (#34654484)

    See Rambus and their previous lawsuit wins and their current business operations which are still based on those same patents.

    That's the first thing that came to my mind too. But the courts didn't decide in Rambus' favor. They decided that Rambus did violate JEDEC's rules for participation. Unfortunately JEDEC's rules didn't specify a punishment for a member violating its rules. Meanwhile the rules for violating patent law were very clear on their punishments under U.S. law.

    Basically, hiding patents while participating in a standards body is not illegal per se. It's the fact that it violates the rules of the standards body which makes it illegal. But since that legality stems from the standards body's rules, the punishment also has to be specified in those rules. JEDEC didn't specify those punishments, so even though Rambus illegally violated their rules, there was no legal punishment they could impose on Rambus for that violation. At best, all they could get Rambus on was breach of contract, and rescind Rambus' membership in JEDEC. But that wouldn't affect any of Rambus' patents.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger