Justice Department Investigating MPEG-LA For Antitrust Violations Over VP8 Patent Threats

from the monopolies dept

This is quite a surprise. We'd already covered how MPEG-LA, the private company that has set up patent pools around web video, had announced its intention to set up a patent pool focused on the patents that holders believe are infringed upon by Google's VP8/WebM video standard. This definitely seemed like a typical shakedown situation, with one company basically asking a bunch of others to team up to demand a bunch of cash from Google.

What's surprising, however, is that the US Justice Department is apparently jumping into this particular battle, and investigating if MPEG-LA's response violates antitrust law. Apparently, the Justice Department (which is not exactly known as being a Google supporter...) is questioning whether or not this move by MPEG-LA and its members represents an attempt to stifle competition in the marketplace. Of course, the answer seems to be yes, but part of that is the very nature of patents. They are, by definition, a monopoly right. So if they want to stop monopoly abuse from stifling competition, perhaps the government should stop handing out so many monopolies.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 11:59am

    The Most Amusing Part

    The most amusing part to me, is that patents and copyright are government-granted monopolies, but when companies exploit those monopolies to their fullest extent, they are accused of anti-competitive behavior by the very government who set the system up in the first place.

    Make up your mind, big-government: Do you want to create monopolies or break them up?

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 12:01pm

      Re: The Most Amusing Part

      One of the requirements for being part of a regulatory entity is the ability to believe completely in entirely contradictory/illogical/impossible things.

       

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        Zauber Paracelsus (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 12:05pm

        Re: Re: The Most Amusing Part

        Just like a time-travel story arc in Bob & George!

         

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        Chris Rhodes (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 12:24pm

        Re: Re: The Most Amusing Part

        Another one of my favorites: The people charged with cracking down on the free distribution of music and movies online (with the argument that file-sharing disincentivizes the creation of more) are the same people charged with cracking down on child pornography online (with the argument that file-sharing incentivizes the creation of more).

         

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          Richard (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 2:34pm

          Re: Re: Re: The Most Amusing Part

          You "stole" that idea from me. (I've made the same point a couple of time before in the comments here).

          It's great to see someone else who thinks the same way!

          Our Lords and masters totally lack consistency of thought.

          Another similar point.

          In Iraq the lack of civil rights was worth a military intervention that cost many lives.

          In the West the mere threat of terrorists killing a single individual means that we have to give up our civil rights...

          Does not compute!

           

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      Qritiqal (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 1:15pm

      Re: The Most Amusing Part

      Logical government is logical.

       

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      Richard (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 1:55pm

      Re: The Most Amusing Part

      Even though the patent monopolies may be individually legal it can still be an anti-trust issue to use (or especially to threaten to use) them in certain ways.

      Individual patents may be fine but co-ordinated action by patent holders to rig the market is not.

       

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    identicon
    coldbrew, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    You have it wrong

    Competition obviously means only having h.264 for the video tag. One option in the marketplace is all you need to satisfy the free market. Just vote red or blue, and those are the only options you need. You communists need to be quiet because you are oppressing people with all your choices.

    Douche or turd, otherwise you are a terrorist.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 12:28pm

    Next up: Intellectual Ventures?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 12:52pm

    Google stole VP8 from the ON2 shareholders... They're whining to the Govt (BTW, Google pretty much is run by the Govt, CIA/NSA... Look it up.)...nd now the Govt is unfairly applying pressure to the competitors.

    Seems like a bunch of crooks all around!

    Do no Evil? Right...

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 2:31pm

    this is just hollywood looking to cheapen its costs

    all the better to rip you all off my dears

     

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    identicon
    Ronald J Riley, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 3:45pm

    Equal Treatment

    Companies for patent pools to get IP rights on the cheap so it seems that it should be perfectly acceptable to form patent pools to enhance profits by lowering transactional costs of licensing. If Justice is going to prohibit inventors from pooling patents they should also stop industry groups from doing the same.

    Ronald J. Riley,

    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org

    Other Affiliations:
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 9 pm EST.

     

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      Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Mar 4th, 2011 @ 5:46pm

      Re: Equal Treatment

      If Justice is going to prohibit inventors from pooling patents they should also stop industry groups from doing the same.
      Oh, if wishing made it so.....

       

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      Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 8:57pm

      Re: Equal Treatment

      Ronald J Riley claimed:

      Companies for patent pools to get IP rights on the cheap ...

      But isnít that cheapening of IP rights removing the incentive to invent in the first place? That is, if you assume that patents are indeed an incentive to invent.

       

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    identicon
    staff, Mar 4th, 2011 @ 5:15pm

    hook or crook

    "monopolies"

    From the days of the founding of the US patents were granted to inventors giving them exclusive rights to their inventions for a limited time. Those "monopolies" as you say have an end. Those seized by large multinational corporations by hook or crook have no term and no boundaries. Their predatory practices shape the worst type of monopolies even corrupting governments through campaign contributions and other forms of graft. Some, even corrupt the press or those who pretend to be.

     

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