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MPEG LA offers patent license for 3D video

Building the MVC technology for 3D video into a Blu-ray player will cost 10 cents per device, and selling discs costs a penny a pop, according to newly released licensing terms.

MPEG LA logo

MPEG LA, an organization that licenses digital video technology patents on behalf of their owners, has announced terms for using a 3D video encoding technology called MVC.

MVC (Multiview Video Coding) is used in Blu-ray disc players, personal computers, video cameras, software, and other situations calling for 3D video. It's what's known as a codec, a specification for encoding and decoding video so it can be stored more compactly or streamed more efficiently across networks.

MPEG LA debuted the MVC license agreement terms at the Asia-Pacific 3D Standards & IP (Intellectual Property) Forum in Seoul, South Korea, yesterday.

For companies that want to use something like MVC, licensing a patent pool is more convenient than hammering out agreements from a host of individual patent holders. But MPEG LA, which also licenses a patent pool for the widely used H.264 video codec, isn't free of controversy. Google is trying to promote a royalty-free video codec called VP8 that competes with H.264, but MPEG LA is investigating whether to offer a patent pool for VP8 and says so far it's found 12 organizations with patents that bear on VP8.

For MVC, there are a variety of ways to pay for the patent license. Each method limited to a maximum of $6.5 million annually:

• A payment of 10 cents per unit for products that include MVC;

• A payment of 1 cent per Blu-ray disc or 1 percent of the price, whichever is lower, though titles shorter than 12 minutes are free;

• Various payments for subscription services to with an unlimited number of titles using MVC, ranging from free for services with less than 100,000 annual subscribers to $300,000 for services with more than 25 million annual subscribers.

A sizeable list of organizations hold patents essential to using MVC, MPEG LA said: Dolby Laboratories; Fraunhofer; Fujitsu; Hewlett-Packard; Hitachi; Koninklijke; LG Electronics;Mitsubishi Electric Corporation; Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT); NTT Docomo; Panasonic; Sharp; Sony; Columbia; and Thomson Licensing.