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.