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Patents, Standards-Essential Brew Licensing Misery

New codec for compressing video isn’t getting market traction because prices of licensing patents for it are unclear. That’s prompted a handful of efforts to fix decades-old issues licensing standards-essential patents that have dogged everything from WiFi to Cellular.

With some proposed approaches, venture members agree on licensing terms before work begins slightly than leaving the job to lawyers typically years after a standard is set. Others have refined descriptions of fair, affordable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing, an often-used idea that has shown to be dangerously obscure.

Nonetheless, others advocate a radical shift to royalty-free requirements. Thus far, this strategy has not been immune from attacks from patent holders, nor has it been sufficiently motivated to draw some top know-how developers, particularly companies with vital licensing businesses.

There may be yet no single methodology that ensures a profitable return for developing new know-how while preventing abuse from monopolies and opportunists given the trade’s diversity in enterprise models, technologies, and markets. And a few see in standards-essential patents (SEPs) a Gordian knot that can’t be unknotted or removed.

“With the blend of the limited monopoly granted in a patent, and the de facto monopoly of a standard, the normal aggressive forces that might determine an inexpensive royalty don’t apply,” mentioned Cliff Reader, an expert in intellectual property problems for video codecs who sees little hope that any nation will perform the kind of patent reforms needed.

Nowadays, SEPs are critical to the high-profile Apple-Qualcomm conflict over cellular, and they’re starting to affect carmakers, too. SEPs are the central spot for H.265, aka HEVC, the codec central to multiple network operator’s plans to deliver extremely-high-definition content material.

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