Nokia Says It Will Block Google's Attempt to Force WebM on the Internet
Nokia has announced that it will not commit to royalty-free or even just FRAND licensing its patents for the WebM audio-video format that Google is trying to push on the Internet, reports FOSS Patents.
Back in May 2010, Google announced the new WebM format which includes the VP8 video codec. Presumably, it did this in an effort to find a format that all major browsers could agree on. Mozilla was refusing to include H.264 support for Firefox due to licensing concerns.
This was immediately viewed as a counterproductive move considering Mozilla was only major holdout left to establishing a standard video format for the web.
Steve Jobs said, "VP8 is simply way too similar to H.264: a pithy, if slightly inaccurate, description of VP8 would be "H.264 Baseline Profile with a better entropy coder". Though I am not a lawyer, I simply cannot believe that they will be able to get away with this, especially in today's overly litigious day and age. Even VC-1 differed more from H.264 than VP8 does, and even VC-1 didn't manage to escape the clutches of software patents. Until we get some hard evidence that VP8 is safe, I would be extremely cautious."
In August of that year, the MPEG LA announced that it will continue not to charge royalties for H.264 Internet Video that is free to end users during the entire life of this License. Despite this, Google in January of 2011 announced that it would take the drastic step of dropping H.264 video support from its popular Chrome browser. This was a highly questionable move which led critics to believe that the company was trying to gain control of the video format used on the web by leveraging its YouTube and Chrome properties.
In February, the MPEG LA announced a call for patents essential to the VP8 video codec specification used to deliver video images. The idea was to prove that codec infringed on numerous patents and prevent its widespread adoption. The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) started an investigation in March 2011 into the MPEG LA for possibly trying to stifle competition with its patent call. In March of this year the MPEG LA announced it had reached a licensing agreement with Google.
However, Nokia says it is not willing to cave to Google and license its patents for use in the codec. Nokia declares 64 granted patents and 22 pending patent applications that are being infringed on and says they will not commit to royalty-free or even just FRAND licensing of those patents. A spokesperson told FOSS Patents:
"Nokia believes that open and collaborative efforts for standardization are in the best interests of consumers, innovators and the industry as a whole. 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. 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."
Notably, Mozilla has softened its stance on H.264 and is including support for the video format in its nightly Windows builds. It's said that the feature will ship with Firefox 22.
We are finally nearing an accepted standard of video on the web and on mobile devices. To let Google drop support for that standard and introduce its own would be huge step backwards for users.