Company Sues MPEG-LA, Claiming Antitrust Violations Over Patents
from the this-could-be-interesting... dept
As you may recall, MPEG-LA acts as a patent pool for many important patents related to digital video -- to the point that the organization appears to believe it is not possible to do digital video without infringing on those patents. Recently, the company has been getting more aggressive, first starting up a separate patent trolling subsidiary, and also threatening Google and others for trying to set up a new open video standard.
In this particular case, the details are important. OS News notes that MPEG-LA had approached the Justice Department back in the 90s to get an "all clear" against any antitrust problems, which the DoJ gave with some conditions. Nero suggests those conditions have not been met:
First, the MPEG-LA would engage with independent experts to ensure only essential patents would be placed in the MPEG-2 pool. They told the DOJ that the MPEG-2 pool constituted of 53 essential patents. Second, independent experts would "weed out nonessential patents" from the pool. Third, licensing terms would be "fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory".MPEG-LA has responded to the lawsuit by basically accusing Nero of being an infringer with sour grapes. Now let's see what the courts think...
Nero claims none of these safeguards were honoured, and here's where it gets juicy; "absolute power has corrupted the MPEG-LA absolutely", according to Nero. First of all, the so-called independent expert was anything but independent. The expert helped form the MPEG-LA, helped in drafting the first MPEG-LA licensing agreements, answers questions from licensees on behalf of the MPEG-LA, has attended business settlement meetings on behalf of the MPEG-LA, and has testified before US congress on behalf of the MPEG-LA. Heck, he is listed on the MPEG-LA website as "MPEG-LA's US patent counsel".
Nero also claims that the MPEG-LA has unlawfully extended its patent pools by adding non-essential patents to the MPEG-2 patent pool. Even though the MPEG-LA told the DOJ there were only 53 essential MPEG-2 patents, the non-independent expert added round and about 800 more patents to the pool, extending the duration of the patent pool, since the old, 53 essential patents expired....
Nero further claims that the MPEG-LA has "formulated and imposed licensing terms that are unfair, unreasonable, and discriminatory", by charging different royalty rates from licensees for the same MPEG-2 license and by not making any downward adjustment in line with the "rapid and dramatic" decrease in costs of implementing the MPEG-2 standard. In addition, the MPEG-LA collects royalties for the same device multiple times (internal hardware, software, monitor, etc.), and the licensing body has failed to "communicate its policies equally to all licensees".