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back to article Nokia deflates Google's video codec thought bubble

Nokia has published an IETF patent declaration that could spell trouble for Google's hopes to pitch VP8 as a new standard codec. Google has put forward VP8 as part of the WebM project, and has put forward various IETF documents, such as RFC 6386, this draft (data formatting and decoding) and this (RTP payloads). Mountain View …

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Screw you, Nokia. Google isn't perfect, but increased options is demonstrably better for consumers. This reeks of Microsoft sticking to a competitor by proxy. It's sad, and it does nothing but lower my level of trust in both Nokia and - assuming they can be proven to be involved, which shouldn't take long - Microsoft.

Patents as a weapon to prevent competition on behalf of more moneyed masters. With the rest of your business model collapsing, Nokia, it looks like you have truly arrived at "patent troll" at last. How much was your pride worth, Nokia? That's the thing I really want to know.

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Devil

Huh

That does seem to sum it up. "We own patents this thing is infringing. We won't license it. We know this serves no purpose except from screwing Google". Or at least it seems that way to me.

Subtle difference of efficiency apart, what is the problem with VP8, except that it lacks a whole bunch of companies who can stomp on it at any time they want, just because they can?

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Anonymous Coward

@Trevor_Pott

That's a really shallow post there, Trev. Nokia is a commercial enterprise and not some pretty girl who jilted you.

By the way, did you know that patents are specifically for the purpose of preventing certain kinds of competition? And out of curiosity, which do you think is more important to Nokia: your trust, or safeguarding their intellectual property? No, sorry, you're wrong. They value their intellectual property much more than your trust. And you're mistaken if you think that Nokia needs to be told by Microsoft that it should take measures against having its patents infringed by Google.

That's a really shallow post there, Trev.

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Mushroom

Re: Huh

The problem with VP8 is that it is a vastly inferior codec. It's compression looks much worse, at larger file sizes.

The fact that Google is pushing it is only holding back everyone from just getting on it with and standardising H.264.

Competition is good in certain areas.... but with some things we just want one that fits all. HTML5 is really taking ages to get going because of the squabbling over the video codec standard. Guys... H.264 is the best, get over it and move on please.

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Paris Hilton

VP8 is pretty good

VP9 is, I hear, even better.

I like the free open standard better than the H.264, thanks. It seems the old saw stays true: "the neat thing about standards is there are so many to choose from."

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@AC 04:42 Re: @Trevor_Pott

" ... patents are specifically for the purpose of preventing certain kinds of competition"

That really is shallow thinking and shallow knowledge of history.

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry, but nobody should control the web video standard. Not Nokie, Google, Microsoft or Apple. It should be a fully open, non-patented standard controlled by W3C.

If by screwing Google over it helps achieve the above then it is worth it.

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Re: Competition is good in certain areas

I agree there are certain areas that shouldn't be exposed to competition.

Survival of the unfittest is always healthy.

Monopolies are good for consumers.

I think I've said enough to point out the purely falacious content of your astroturf.

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Stop

@AC 7:29

I think you have not been paying attention. H264 is the standard that is encumbered by many patents belonging to many companies, including Apple and Microsoft, who are not willing to relinquish their IP. VP8 is precisely the standard built by Google with the express purpose of having a non-patented standard.

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Re: Huh

> Guys... H.264 is the best, get over it and move on please.

h264 cannot be used for an open web, because it requires royalties to implement - thus locking out any new browser with little budget (open source, from a small company, etc.) which wants to adhere to any standard which mandates h264.

It also requires royalty payments from content creators (meaning anyone with a camera) if they want to create h264 content for anything other than "personal use". Check the license agreement which should have come with your camera/smartphone/tablet/etc. if you don't believe me.

These are why the MPEG-LA, and most everyone who receives payments from them, are pushing so hard for h264 to be embedded in any and every standard going.

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Anonymous Coward

Then you misunderstand

Google have released VP8 as an Opensource video codec. By allowing Nokia (who are quite clearing being driven y MIcrosoft now) you are PREVENTING adoption of the open standards, and supported the closed and locked down pay world of H,.264

Google are the good guys here, they bought this, and immediately opensourced it. Nokrosoft are trying to stifle that, they want everyone to pay their licences for H.264

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FAIL

Re: AC@Trevor_Pott

> patents are specifically for the purpose of preventing certain kinds of competition?

No, patents are specifically for the purpose of encouraging the publication of new ideas, so that they can be improved on, while allowing the inventor limited protection against having the idea stolen by the competition.

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Anonymous Coward

Ahahahaha. The Borg finally meets its match. Thank god they wont be able to foist this broken abortion on the internet....It uses a Matroska container, but doesn't even support that properly.

Now everyone will use the single standard of H264 and H265 and the market won't be split by Google's proprietary bs.....

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Re: @Trevor_Pott

> They value their intellectual property much more than your trust.

Course they do. But that's not the point. The point is that Nokia don't have anything left but intellectual property. They used to be the world's biggest phone manufacturer. Not any more.

> And you're mistaken if you think that Nokia needs to be told by Microsoft that it should take measures against having its patents infringed by Google.

Course they don't. But that's not the point either. The point is that once upon a time Nokia would have had the far better option of entering into strategic partnership with Google instead. Not any more.

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Re: @AC 04:42 @Trevor_Pott

"" ... patents are specifically for the purpose of preventing certain kinds of competition"

That really is shallow thinking and shallow knowledge of history."

Um, no it's not. Patents are a government-backed monopoly. They are very specifically intended to prevent competition and always have been.

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Anonymous Coward

"Ahahahaha. The Borg finally meets its match. Thank god they wont be able to foist this broken abortion on the internet....It uses a Matroska container, but doesn't even support that properly."

Codec!=encapsulation. You could put VP8 in any container or stream type that you could cram it into, just like with h.264, which you often get in other container formats.

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FAIL

Re: Competition is good in certain areas

There IS area that should not be exposed to competition, utilities, healthcare and such and it has even been demonstrated within the own narrow confines of economic studies (that tend to always forgot whatever is not monetary value).

Second you are mistaking competition with privatization, you can have competition with public non patented knowledge and product, and in fact 99% of the "private patents" found their roots (and not 10 level remote, direct roots) in some public or publicly founded research.

Patents are a nonsense.

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@Robert Long 1

You are confusing the intent of the system with the means.

The intent is, and always has been, encouraging innovation. Preventing competition through the granting of a government-backed monopoly is only the means.

The corollary is that if this business of preventing competition is shown to prevent innovation rather than encourage it, it should be abolished…

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Unhappy

"Patents [...]are very specifically intended to prevent competition"

But the use of a patent to suppress further developments in a broad field was not the original intent. Instead, patents were created to accelerate technological developments by putting the newest innovations out to the public.

Software patents and most patents for modern consumer electronics are an abomination and do not fulfill the original purpose of patents. In particular, the business cycle in of those field is far shorter than the patent duration, hence the patents do not accelerate technology development, but are used to purposefully slow it down.

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"Now everyone will use the single standard of H264 and H265 and the market won't be split by Google's proprietary bs....."

Quite right! We should all conform to the MPEG LA's "proprietary bs" (payign for licenses for products that encode or decode) and ignore the open alternative that was being offered for free to promote innovation and universal sharing of videos!

VP8 might not be perfect, but at least anyone would be free to provide support for it without worrying about a legal tap on the shoulder.

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Re: @Trevor_Pott

Shallow it may be - but then neither of you have any evidence to back up statements either way...

For all I know you're correct - but I'll wager that Redmond isn't exactly unhappy that Nokia have waded in.

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Boffin

Re: VP8 is pretty good

@Mikel

But that is the problem, it isn't free and open, it is encumbered, just like H.264.

On top of that, all the hardware, currently, is designed to natively accelerate H.264 recording and playback, it isn't currently optimised for VP8.

The other problem is, all consumer cameras, even Android based ones, record H.264, which is a lossy compression, which would then need to be converted to VP8/WebM, which is lossy, which would mean even more picture quality lost.

For stuff recorded directly on a computer (animation, screen recording etc.) it would work well, but it is all a bit chicken and egg at the moment, until there is hardware to record WebM, it doesn't make a lot of sense and H.264 is the way to go and as long as Google is having to eat crow, after saying that it is unencumbered and it not being unencumbered, it is going to be a long wait until we start to get native WebM devices...

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Re: neither of you have any evidence

Seen any invisible pink unicorns recently?

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Boffin

Re: @AC 04:42 @Trevor_Pott

"That really is shallow thinking and shallow knowledge of history."

In what way?

In my understanding, the whole point of a patent is a trade-off: you get a limited period of time when your competitors cannot copy your idea, after which everyone gets detailed instructions on exactly how to do just that.

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Re: @Robert Long 1

"The intent is, and always has been, encouraging innovation."

You're crazy if you believe that. Patents were introduced to help friends of the monarch make loads of cash, which they were expected to share with said monarch in one way or another, by protecting them from competition.

"Innovation" is just a modern excuse for this mediaeval scam.

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Boffin

"I like the free open standard better than the H.264, thanks."

@Mikel: You have that backwards. H.264 is the open standard, developed by the Motion Picture Expert Group under the joint auspices of ISO, IEC and ITU. H.264 is the ITU-R project number - it is also known as MPEG-4 Part 10 Advanced Video Coding, and published as ISO/IEC 14496-10. In order to be published by these organizations, contributors have to sign up to the organizations' patent policy, which says that patents covering the specification must be available on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms - but it does not define what those words actually mean. Due to the wide membership of MPEG and of the standards organizations, it should be less likely that someone later claims that their patent is essential to implementation, and that they can hold implementers hostage, because they haven't signed up to FRAND terms.

US courts have prevented Qualcomm from blocking Broadcom's use of Qualcomm-patented technology in an implementation of H.264, because Qualcomm signed up to the patent policy.

MPEG LA's role is that some of those patent holders have employed MPEG LA to look after their interests, regarding patents considered essential to various MPEG standards. MPEG LA extracts an administration fee before divvying up the royalties among the various patent holders. MPEG LA would *like* to be a one-stop shop for licensing all patents essential to H.264 (and MPEG-2 Visual, and a number of others) but there is no compulsion for other patent holders to join. When they talked about 'forming a patent pool' they were inviting patent holders to make similar arrangements.

VP8's *reference implementation* is published under an open source licence. The *specification* is published on the WebM project's website, and Google provide a royalty-free license all patents that Google owns, or has obtained the authority to sub-licence. Google have recently agreed such authority with MPEG LA for some patents that are part of MPEG LA's other patent pools (and MPEG LA have agreed to stop trying to form a pool for VP8). However, *other* companies could still hold VP8 implementers hostage if they have patents essential to VP8 implementation.

We cannot know whether there are such patents. The national patent offices simply do not organize their patent databases in a way that you can properly search, and there is a disincentive to searching: in the USA, you can get triple damages awarded if you have 'wilfully' infringed, and wilful infringement has been decided if the implementer read the patent and decided that it didn't apply. The exact wording of the patent will only be interpreted in a court case, and courts have frequently applied the widest possible interpretation of the wording. For example, Toyota have to pay Paice Technologies royalties on the Prius and other hybrid cars, even though the patent in question specifically mentions how their implementation is different from the mechanical design used in the Prius, itself taken from an expired TRW patent; the claims were read so widely as to apply to any car that combines a petrol engine and an AC motor, AC provided by inversion from a battery.

However, we do know that Nokia believe they hold such patents, essential to implementing VP8, and therefore the IETF cannot publish the RFC as Nokia refuse to licence them.

I'm not defending patents as they currently stand. I think the issues we see largely represent a failure of imagination of the patent office staff, that they are granting the most obvious patents, combining known techniques in a not-particularly-novel way, and one that would be or was discovered totally independently, with no real exposure to the original implementation. The patent *system* makes it unbelievably difficult to actually find out if the problem you're facing *has* already been solved - if we could look up a solution and know it's going to cost us a dollar per device, rather than spending years on finding a solution, we might pay it. What's galling is when you do spend those years finding the solution, only to have someone say 'no, we invented that - pay $$$ per device' when they actually contributed *nothing* to your solution.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Huh

The content (and content equipment) producing world standardised on H.264 years ago. The game is over. Nothing that is provably inferior to H.264 which also has no support from the content industry is likely to make much progress.

A forward compatible codec from the H.264 bunch is the most likely codec.next

Google needs to pull its head in and concentrate on being the evil online advertising monopoly that they manifestly are.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC 7:29

It is not at all certain that VP8 is unencumbered by patents. This is a "claim" Google might have made, but many people who have the ability and knowledge to know, suggest that the claim may not be true

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Anonymous Coward

Wbem which is the proprietary solution that Google are pushing includes the encapsulation....

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"increased options is demonstrably better for consumers"

That must be why US customers who have to choose between GSM and CDMA providers get demonstrably better deals than consumers in the rest of the world, who only have GSM providers to choose between?

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Re: @AC 04:42 @Trevor_Pott

No, it's exactly on point. IP is granted a monopoly protection by governments. By definition that means they are preventing certain kinds of competition. The claim made by the governments granting the monopolies is that if they don't grant them, IP development and technological growth will be stymied. I happen to largely share that viewpoint, but it doesn't mean I should deny the mechanism by which that end is achieved.

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Re: @Ratfox

And you have forgot your logic and metaphysics:

evil means + evil intent ---> really evil outcome

evil means + good intent ---> evil outcome

good means + evil intent ---> evil outcome

only

good means + good intent ---> possibly good outcome

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Re: "Patents [...]are very specifically intended to prevent competition"

No patents were created so the inventor of something new would be able to profit from it either by being the sole supplier or selling licenses to use his technology. The assumption was that since this gives him the means to make money and making money is something people desire more people would invent more things. But it was always about a private profit.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: AC@Trevor_Pott

Random ramblings ahead:

My Engineering Master keeps telling me wondrous stories of the golden times when patents were merely technological milestone markers. "Foo Bar (Corp Inc.) invented this in XXXX". Upper management viewed it as a nerd hobby. Let the engineers hang another certificate to their office wall if it makes them happy.

If you sold a product, your competition would know about and disassemble it anyway. Replicating your product on their own lines would still cost them considerable amounts of time, money and skill. So why not document the key structure and let them try and improve on that instead of a reverse-engineered hack. That makes it all so much easier to integrate *their* changes back into your own design.

Everyone was happy and productive, Cheery engineers frolicked about, ever improving on each others' creations in a rainbow-colored stream of technology and art. They very probably would have brought us atomic kitchens *in* our flying cars!

But zen ze darkness came crawling over ze ocean and the idea of licensing intellectual property grew out of the shadows and infiltrated the minds of ze bosses. It played to their fear. The fear that someone else could improve upon their patents and take it beyond their own (engineers') abilities. The engineers loathed the thought because it severely limited the building blocks they could choose from. What good is any technological advancement if you can't use it to make something even better?

The Herr Diplomingenieur then usually breaks into random rants about 'What Ze Americans call 'engineering'! Pfusch, I say!" and I usually slip quietly out of the door for a smoke.

That said, cheap&fast chinese copyshops and consumer drive to lower quality at much lower prices might render patents obsolete alltogether one day.

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FAIL

Re: VP8 is pretty good

It is free and open. Not only has Google provided a free license to all the 20 years' accumulation of ON2 codec patents that have withstood the tests of courts and time, they've now licensed the entire MPEG-LA patent library as well under terms that all them to grant those rights to VP8 implementors free of charge and without limit just in case. Specifically H.264 has no advantage over VP8 in terms of patent licensing as they are now cross licensed with each other, and there is no other credible solution for capturing or playing video. The difference is that H.264 charges license fees for some things, and VP8 doesn't.

MPEG-LA also doesn't guarantee that there is no patent on Earth that their license doesn't cover. But between the two groups, that's just about all of it. Nokia can make their noise, but the fact is that between MPEG-LA and ON2 patents, there's nothing out there left that really matters.

The claim that somebody out there might have a patent on it is just dumb. Of course it's true - you can't make a wicker basket without patent claims these days. But ON2 didn't have a problem defending their codec for 20 years, and now that they're owned by the world's second largest technology company with enough cash in the bank to buy Nokia outright if they had to, there is no need to fear that this tech is going to go away. Google already spent 133 million dollars to make this happen. They're not going to let a little investment in lawyer fees get in the way of the world having a global free standard for video compression.

Besides: we've been here before. http://www.osnews.com/story/26892/Nokia_s_VP8_patent_claims_we_ve_been_here_before

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Interesting that you mention Qualcomm

@Mike Dimmick - Patent trolling is over half of Qualcomm's revenues. IETF knows this.

Specifically in the case of WebRTC standards - the extant topic - Qualcomm attempted to block the audio codec "Opus". They failed. Their claims were investigated and found to be groundless. The "Opus" audio codec is incorporated as a mandatory component of the standard.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "increased options is demonstrably better for consumers"

Erm, but they don't. US consumers have some of the worst deals for mobiles globally. For instance, having to pay for incoming calls is common, and Simless handsets that are locked to a provider forever!

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Boffin

Growklaw already on the case...

See http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20130324162902177 . Apparently, the fundamental number of patents is not so large, they just get repeated over several countries, and "continuations". I wonder what Google will do, will it dig up prior art (I suspect by now they have created a dedicated search engine for that task :-), or give up on WebM? It is also the case that just because Nokia says there is infringement, does not mean there actually is. But that would take a very expensive court battle to find out, and WebM is probably not that valuable for Google.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Growklaw already on the case...

From what I've seen over the last few years, Groklaw might as well be called the Google fan club - everything Google does gets interpreted in the most positive light, even when their evil started to show through the cracks. It's very selective in the way it addresses things, which is IMHO disappointing.

That's why I stopped going there - if I want to have data, I like it balanced so that I am allowed to form my own opinion instead of being hoodwinked by information bias. Opinions I can get from anywhere.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Growklaw

I think you're being slightly unfair. Groklaw is very pro-Google bug nevertheless has a lot of details about tech related law that aren't available anywhere else. I'd still recommend visiting the site for legal stories but you do have to realise how one sided they are if Google are in any way related to the story...

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Stop

Re: Groklaw already on the case...

> From what I've seen over the last few years, Groklaw might as well be called the Google fan club - everything Google does gets interpreted in the most positive light,

Then you haven't been following it very long! Groklaw is consistent only in being pro-opensource and against overreaching interpretations of copyright. In the past they have frequently taken IBM', Novells and even Apple' s side (yes, hard to believe now) in various disputes (starting with the SCO affair). And although it is often opinionated, you get both sides of each story, like in their reproducing entire court filings from both sides.

I'm pretty sure that if Google does something really evil like asserting a patent on a popular piece of free software, they will find Groklaw not a fan club at all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Groklaw is consistent only in being pro-opensource

Or maybe you've been following it too long. I only started reading it about a year ago and in that time there has been a consistent pro-Google bias in their reporting of any story involving Google. I'm pretty sure that if Google does something really evil you're in for a big surprise...

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What Nokia did not say

Nokia did not say which patents were allegedly infringed. This usually means that if there are any infringed patents at all, then they are invalid. VP8 was designed from the ground up to avoid patent infringement. The usual way to do that is to base the design on expired patents. The biggest technical complaint against VP8 is that it is old tech. If Nokia say VP8 is "no better than the existing H.264" then you can be sure that they wanted to say it is worse, but had no evidence. Releasing a statement through FOSS patents is also very suspicious. It is like they wanted to tell some really whopping lies, but were concerned about possible legal backlash. Florian was the only guy mercenary enough to repeat what he was told.

Nokia is in its final death throws looking for a way to bump up its sale price. They either hope that Google will buy them out or that a troll will buy them before it becomes clear that the 'VP8' patents are bogus. There is no way that Nokia itself could win a patent fight. It is hemorrhaging cash way to fast to last long enough.

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Unhappy

Re: What Nokia did not say

> They either hope that Google will buy them out or that a troll will buy them before it becomes clear that the 'VP8' patents are bogus.

The "VP8" patents are a very, very small part of Nokia's portfolio (which mostly deals with mobile technology nuts and bolts). In fact, what I find extremely puzzling is why is Nokia creating a ruckus at all? There is no way they can win any significant income from that, and shooting down a popular open codec project just creates deep loathing among techies. That will cause more lost sales income that any patent royalties might bring.

It would be easy to suggest conspiracy theories, but knowing Nokia, sheer incompetence is more likely.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What Nokia did not say

"Nokia is in its final death throws looking for a way to bump up its sale price"

"Throes", in this case.

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Re: What Nokia did not say

No I think you'll find the ballistic projection of shit is more a throw than a throe.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What Nokia did not say

Erm, you know Nokia are already making a profit again? Blackberry are the only similar thing in death throws at the moment...

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Anonymous Coward

@MacroRodent - Re: What Nokia did not say

I'll give you a clue : Microsoft is so eager to kill Android at any cost.

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Re: What Nokia did not say

Wait a minute!

Florian is involved in this story?

Say no more.

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Go

VP8, for those who don't know

Founded in 1992, The Duck Company created a coder/decoder algorithm ("codec") for streaming video intended for video game cutscenes. It was called TrueMotion. In the more than two decades since they have been improving and releasing this as a series of codecs called VPn, where n is the version number, and we're up to 8 now. In 1997, Microsoft Corp. licensed The Duck Corp.'s TrueMotion 2.0 video codec technology to bring TV-quality video to the PC platform. In 1999 the company merged with a finance company and became "ON2" and then "ON2 Technologies". VP6 was selected as the video codec for Flash 8. Skype, now owned by Microsoft, licensed VP7 and all future versions for use in their video chat program in 2005.

In 2010 Google acquired the company for $133 million. Development of codecs is ongoing. Google has open-sourced the codecs and granted broad patent license as well.

There will be some here to say that the codecs are new, inadequate, that Nokia has trump patents that will squash this project. Nothing could be further from the truth. With over 20 years in the field providing an alternative to the MPEG-LA group's codecs, finding broad success at it, and weathering the legal assault from much larger companies around the world, they are still doing fine. They have a patent portfolio too, and it is broad and deep. With Google's deep pockets they will have little trouble foiling this attack as well.

In my opinion the availability of a free and open codec is of primary importance in modern technology, and this concern trumps any advantages that codecs like h.264 might have, as they come with the downside of trying to control who can make a device that captures, plays, or streams video and what content can be in the stream.

More at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On2_Technologies

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