Group To Handle MPEG Intellectual Property Issues

Louisville, Colorado, USA, April 25, 1994 -- An effort has begun to form an MPEG-related licensing entity that would provide efficient access to intellectual property rights (IPR) necessary for the implementation of MPEG technology worldwide. MPEG stands for Moving Picture Experts Group. This endeavor should result in widespread, nondiscriminatory and reasonable patent rights licensing of the core digital compression technology involved in MPEG.

The announcement comes on the heels of an MPEG meeting held in Paris, France, March 21-25, 1994. An IPR meeting was held March 24 in conjunction with the MPEG meeting and was attended by representatives of more than 50 companies who are among the manufacturers and users of digital compression technology worldwide. The group working toward formation of the licensing entity is expected to meet in September 1994.

Speaking of the Paris meeting, Mr. Baryn Futa said: "Our MPEG IPR Group has worked since September 1993 to develop a plan for dealing with the MPEG intellectual property rights issue. With the actions taken in Paris, we can now move forward to a solution." Futa is executive vice president and chief operating officer (COO) of Cable Television Laboratories, Inc. (CableLabs), and serves as the chairman of the MPEG IPR Group.

"I hope that all companies and individuals worldwide who believe that they have patent rights for MPEG core technology will join our effort to make MPEG a reality." Futa said.

The IPR Issue

"Digital compression is a keystone of the networks of the future and MPEG is the digital television standard for the next century," said Futa. "The spirit of international harmonization and cooperation runs deep in the MPEG effort. MPEG is a miraculous achievement based upon the technical contributions of these many countries and these companies." Futa said. He noted that the convergence which MPEG fosters provides a clear path to worldwide interoperability, and serves to open the marketplace to multiple vendors.

"However, this great achievement has resulted in MPEG core technology that includes many different patents from many different companies and individuals worldwide. Unless a creative way is found to provide easy, reasonable, fair and nondiscriminatory access to such patents rights, the goal of a worldwide digital television standard may be jeopardized by the difficulty of clearing access to all the necessary patents," Futa said.

Since MPEG sets technical standards and does not, per se, deal with intellectual property rights, there has been a consensus for some time within some of the key companies participating in the MPEG process that patent rights clearances would be an issue, Futa noted. They believed that an effort should be started to explore the possibility of establishing a licensing entity to make access to the necessary rights easy and that such access be available on reasonable, fair and nondiscriminatory terms.

Specific Steps To Be Taken as a Result of the Paris Meeting

At the Paris meeting, the MPEG IPR Group reached a consensus on a two-phase action plan for establishing a licensing entity. The first phase will be to identify which patent holders are willing to participate in this effort and whether they own rights necessary for implementation of MPEG core technology. The effort also will concentrate on identifying which patent holders believe that they own or are likely to own patents they believe are necessary for others to license in order to conform to the MPEG standard.

The second phase will include determining the entity's administrative structure as an ongoing effort that works with new licensees and licensers, the licensing structure, and the allocation of royalties.

Interested patent holders are asked to complete a form letter stating their interest in working toward establishing a licensing entity and providing an annex listing their own patents they believe are necessary. The deadline for submitting these documents to Futa is June 10, 1994. [Note: This form letter is available to any interested patent holders by contacting Mike Schwartz at the above noted phone number and address.]

Based upon these submissions, Futa will compile the lists of patents and will send the compiled lists to all companies that have submitted this letter, along with an invitation (and required similar, subsequent form letter to be completed) to attend a first meeting regarding the formation of a licensing entity.

All patent holders submitting such letters and lists are also asked to commit to license their essential patents on a reasonable, fair and non-discriminatory basis whether they join the licensing entity or not. Further, they are asked to agree that submission of the letter and its attachment(s), as well as their company's participation in this effort, does not constitute a "notice" from them to anyone or any company, nor does it constitute a charge or basis for a charge of patent infringement and related damages of any kind by them against anyone or any company for any purpose under any applicable law.