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Apple, Microsoft face antitrust probe over video codecs

updated 08:40 pm EST, Thu March 3, 2011

Conflict centers around Google's free V8 codec

The Department of Justice is reportedly investigating antitrust allegations against codec licensing firm MPEG-LA and its members, which include tech heavyweights Apple and Microsoft. The probe is said to be focusing on possible anticompetitive actions aimed at Google and the search giant's V8 codec, which serves as a free alternative to MPEG LA's standards.

The DoJ is considering wether MPEG-LA may be using legal threats to discourage companies from using V8, unnamed sources have told the Wall Street Journal (sub. required). The possibility of becoming entangled in a patent infringement suit is said to be driving some companies to avoid V8 and opt for a licensing agreement through MPEG-LA for a competing standard such as H.264.

MPEG-LA manages a patent pool that includes intellectual property held by a long list of companies, including Microsoft, Apple, LG, Samsung, Sharp, and Toshiba, among others. The firm has called on its members to help pinpoint patents that they view as potentially infringed by Google's V8 standard, which is available through an open license without charging royalties.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs last year echoed MPEG-LA's stance, mentioning that open-source does not necessarily guarantee that a standard does not infringe on existing patents. Google product manager Mike Jazayeri suggests the claims are unfounded, as the search giant finished a "thorough investigation" of related patents.

The DoJ has yet to officially confirm the investigation. It remains unclear if the agency will find evidence of anticompetitive behavior and what, if any, action will be taken.

by MacNN Staff



  1. LenE

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Time to crush WebM

    MPEG-LA will have to stop threatening, and issue real law suits for infringement. Members of a consortium can be accused of being an oligopoly, which is legal, not a monopoly. They have the IP and it is attached to the de-facto openly developed standard. Now it is time to use it.

    Funny, when Google has a Microsoft-like share of search and online video content portals, and they decide to use this share to push their non-standard standard. They take advantage of useful idiots that parrot the "open" and "free" adjectives when WebM has been neither. Eric is using his cozy ties with the administration to lob the first volley with the ugliest of legal ogres in the entire country (the DoJ). Who is evil here?

    -- Len

  1. aristotles

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Google seeks a monopoly on all information

    Google should be broken up like "Ma Bell" before it is too late.

  1. Zanziboy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Never Trust Google

    How dare the industry allow copyright laws and patents to stand in the way of the Google money machine!

  1. facebook_Geir

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Mar 2011



    Not used to see people argue that the owners of a royalty based codec should crush the free alternative. Sure, Google is no knight in shining armor, but the MPEG LA is not that either.

    Frankly, I find Googles "Here is a free alternative, we won't support the royalty based one anymore" better than MPEG LA's mob-style "Use this, if you use the other we'll sue your arse off".

  1. wrenchy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The holy trinity

    It seems that "Apple" + "Microsoft" + "Antitrust" seem to go hand in hand these days...

    Oh I forgot... Apple is the new Microsoft!

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