Google has been pushing its VP8 codec for a couple of years now, and together with Vorbis audio encoding, the two codecs are the base of the royalty-free WebM format (also known as RFC 6386) that is designed for use with HTML5 video. However, Nokia isn’t too happy that Google is getting all the attention and has decided to start making some noise. In an official filing with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IEFT), which is responsible for drafting and publishing RFC 6386, Nokia has listed 64 patents and 22 pending patents which it claims pertain to VP8.
Some of the patents are for the same idea but in different geographic locations, so Nokia isn’t claiming it has over 80 patents related to VP8, however it is clear that Nokia is trying to put a stop to the codec. In comments to the FOSS patents blog, which covers software patent news, Nokia said it would not commit to royalty-free or fair licensing with respect to VP8. The Finnish company claims that Google are “attempting to force the adoption of its proprietary technology” and that VP8 “offers no advantages over existing, widely deployed standards such as H.264”. Since Nokia doesn’t like VP8 and obviously doesn’t want WebM to be based on something which belongs to a rival, the company has said that VP8 infringes Nokia’s intellectual property and as a result it has taken the step of declaring to the IETF that it is not prepared to license any Nokia patents which may be needed to implement the RFC6386 specification.
This means that at the moment the fear of being sued by Nokia now hangs over anyone attempting to implement WebM and it certainly casts a long shadow over its claims to be royalty-free. Google bought a company called On2 Technologies in 2012 so that it could secure the rights to On2’s video compression algorithms, which it then used for the basis of the VP8 codec. However MPEG LA, who own a lot of video related patents, started to form a patent pool against Google. But just under two weeks ago Google announced that the two parties have sorted everything out and MPEG LA is ending its efforts to form a VP8 patent pool. As part of the deal, Google also has the right to sublicense any technology that may be essential to VP8.
The question is, can Google and Nokia come to a similar agreement?