Google reaches deal with MPEG LA over its VP8 video codec

Agreement with patent-licensing group clears the way for wider adoption of the Web giant's streaming-video platform WebM.

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Google has reached a licensing agreement with MPEG LA over patents that cover video compression, clearing the way for wider adoption of the Web giant's VP8 video codec and its streaming-video platform WebM.

The deal grants Google the right to sublicense the VP8 as well as the techniques in the forthcoming VP9 codec , which is already under development. MPEG LA also agreed to abandon its efforts to form a VP8 patent pool, which would have allowed it to cross-license its video patents.

Financial terms of the arrangement were not revealed.

"This is a significant milestone in Google's efforts to establish VP8 as a widely deployed Web video format," Allen Lo, Google's deputy general counsel for patents, said in a statement. "We appreciate MPEG LA's cooperation in making this happen."

The VP8 and VP9 codecs have their origins at On2 Technologies, a company Google acquired in 2010 for $123 million . Google and assorted allies combined VP8 with the freely usable Vorbis audio codec to form a streaming-video technology called WebM.

VP8's biggest competitor -- H.264 -- is used by many companies in video cameras, Blu-ray discs, and more, which pay royalties for use of the codec. MPEG LA licenses video-related patents related to a variety of standards on behalf of patent holders, returning royalty payments to those companies.

With VP8, Google planned to create high-quality, patent-free, open-source video for the Web. But that plan hit a snag in 2011 when MPEG LA announced that it didn't believe VP8 was patent-free and formally requested that its clients inform it of patents they believe Google's VP8 technology infringes.

While VP8 has failed to make a dent in H.264's dominance, the agreement means Google's codec will escape the fate of Microsoft's VC-1. Microsoft's ambitions for the Windows Media Player-based video codec were thwarted in 2007 when MPEG LA stepped in with a patent pool of its own.


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