Microsoft mugged over VC-1 codec patent terms


By Faultline
Published Saturday 14th April 2007 12:02 GMT

Comment We meet people on the various IPTV, mobile TV and web video circuits who always comment that VC-1, after a flying start, has fallen back and that pretty much these days the codec of choice is either VP6 from On2 Technologies for web video and H.264 for everything else, with no VC-1 in sight.

Just over three weeks ago the MPGE LA issued a final license for the Microsoft-inaugurated VC-1 codec, after forming a group to assess essential patents and to discuss terms for it, back in March 2004, the process taking precisely three years.

The license may in fact only be a license by which Microsoft can pay everyone else fees. There are no less than 16 separate companies that are deemed to have patents that are essential for VC-1 to work, the latest addition to the 15 company list that was first issued last August, being Korean number three handset maker, Pantech Curitel.

Between them they speak for 125 separate patents that are listed in the license, and a total of two of these are allocated to Microsoft. Every other supplier of essential technology including Daewoo, France Telecom, société anonyme (which presumably includes patents from close associates of France Telecom also) Fujitsu, Philips, LG, Matsush*ta, Mitsubishi, NTT Pantech Curitel, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Telenor, Toshiba JVC, have more patents at stake that Microsoft (except for two of the above) and many of them have many more.

Effectively Microsoft has been mugged by the attempt to make its VC-1 technology a standard through the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. In so doing it had to reveal how its codec technology worked, and offer a license, and in going to the respected MPEG LA as a patent pool agent, it exposed its technology to all the know how that went into licensing the MPEG 2 and MPEG 4 Level 10 AVC/H.264 codec that has stolen the market.
continued here


Distinguished Member
A question and answer from AVS:

Originally Posted by Maxpower1987
I am not trying to be inflammatory, but I was wondering what MS thinks about the patent decision that was recently made by the MPEG-LA awarding just two out of the 125 patents used in VC-1 to Microsoft?

I will understand if the answer is no comment.

Originally Posted by amirm
Actually, it is a good question. I think it is important to note how the process works here. The patent pool administered by MPEG-LA only includes issued patents. And it is up to each company to provide their patents to be evaluated against the standard as otherwise, they won’t be included in the list, even if they read on the spec. So this is not the case of us showing them 100 patents, and them "awarding" two of them.

Microsoft currently has many patents for VC-1 technology under application status, as it takes five years or more for patents to be granted. Therefore, we expect Microsoft’s patent position with respect to VC-1 to increase significantly over the next few years. More important than the sheer number of patents, however, is the level of innovation reflected in those patents. Many of the patents in the current list refer to older codec algorithms, whereas Microsoft’s patents and pending patent applications reflect the core innovations in the codec.

The same is true of other pools btw. Some 150 companies contributed to AVC for example but I believe only 25 are represented in MPEG-LA pool today. As the new entrants have their patents granted and they choose to participate in AVC pool, the list will grow and percentage of patents from each company will change.


Well-known Member
its a good read that, but the patents microsoft have outstanding are not taken in consideration to be fair. these probaly have to do with the process of reducing the bitrate while maintain most of the quality. Just not the cash generater they perhaps hoped for and vc-1 usage looks in recline in its sector but no doubt will gain a foothold again once downloads become the norm in years to come.

"So after all this time the two technologies, considered by many so similar as to be identical, now cost virtually the same to license as one another, much to the chagrin of Microsoft's and contradicting its earlier statements. The intervening period of uncertainty has pretty much left VC-1 encoding only scarcely used, except a little on the web, with the exception of its use as an option in both High Definition DVD standards HD DVD and Blu-ray. But this only came about as a snub to the MPEG4/H.264 license, which at the time was thought to be too expensive."

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