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Nokia defies Google over WebM video standard, guarding VP8 codec patents

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Nokia stock
Nokia stock

Nokia has explicitly ruled out licensing a set of video patents under royalty-free or FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) terms, potentially blocking efforts by Google to make its VP8 codec, part of the broader WebM project, a worldwide standard. In a submission to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), one of the international bodies responsible for administering web standards, the Finnish company lists 64 patents and 22 pending applications that it claims are relevant to VP8 and makes it clear that it will not be willing to give Google — or any other interested party — a free ride.

VP8 was originally developed by On2 Technologies

The move comes barely two weeks after Google entered into a licensing agreement with MPEG LA, another company claiming to own patents infringed by VP8 — while financial details were not disclosed, Google gained the right to sublicense the patents to third parties, with the agreement covering all previous generations of the codec as well as the next generation, VP9. In a statement given to FOSS Patents, a Nokia spokesman describes the company's latest actions as an "unusual step," but claims that it is necessary to prevent Google from "forc[ing] the adoption of its proprietary technology, which offers no advantages over existing, widely deployed standards such as H.264."

VP8 was originally developed by On2 Technologies and was acquired by Google in 2010, soon becoming part of the WebM project. The battle between H.264 and WebM has been raging ever since — this time last year, Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich criticized Google for reneging on a commitment to remove H.264 support from its Chrome browser, while Microsoft accused the company of attempting to "kill video on the web" after it refused to change certain Motorola licensing policies around the codec.