Sony, Philips, Panasonic to create single Blu-ray license

The independent agency will open mid-2009 and promises lower-cost licensing for Blu-ray Discs and players.

Companies that wish to make Blu-ray devices will very soon have a less expensive and simpler licensing process, according to a joint announcement Wednesday from Sony, Philips, and Panasonic.

A new license will be established by mid-2009 as a "one-stop shop" for device makers. The license will include all necessary Blu-ray, DVD, and CD patents for selling Blu-ray players. The licensing program will be handled by a new licensing company to be led by Gerald Rosenthal, former head of intellectual property at IBM. It will be based in the U.S., but will have local branches in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

Instead of having to approach Blu-ray, DVD, and CD holders individually and paying them separate royalties, the single license should cut down the total cost of royalty payments by 40 percent, according to Sony.

The fees for the new licenses will be $9.50 for a Blu-ray player, and $14 for a Blu-ray recorder. Making Blu-ray Disc will cost 11 cents for read-only, 12 cents for recordable discs, and 15 cents for rewritable discs.

The idea for a one-stop shop for Blu-ray has been floating around since a 2007 meeting of the 18 companies that hold Blu-ray patents. Licensing fees can be extremely lucrative for disc format patent holders: several years ago license fees for making a DVD player cost between $15 and $20.

This one-stop shop will help avoid the headache DVD licenses created. To make a DVD player or disc, manufacturers have had to ink deals with three separate organizations that represented various patent holders. There is DVD 6c (Hitachi, Panasonic, JVC, and six others); DVD 3c (Philips, Sony, Pioneer); and MPEG LA (representing encoders and decoders).

Former CNET News editor Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.

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