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.