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MacBytes
Feb 14, 2006, 10:43 AM
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Category: News and Press Releases
Link: AT&T Claims MPEG-4 Patent Infringement (http://www.macbytes.com/link.php?sid=20060214114349)
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Posted on MacBytes.com (http://www.macbytes.com)
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mesh
Feb 14, 2006, 11:24 AM
just another guy trying to get a slice of the ipod pie.

suntzu
Feb 14, 2006, 12:16 PM
The International Standards Organization (ISO) controls the MPEG standard. The MPEG Licensing Association (MPEGLA) administers patents used in MPEG-4 formats. ISO requires members to license patents under reasonable terms. AT&T has chosen to belong to neither organization, so they are not bound by these terms.

Wait. I'm confused. AT&T wants money for MPEG-4 when they're not the group that owns the license to MPEG-4?

longofest
Feb 14, 2006, 01:03 PM
Wait. I'm confused. AT&T wants money for MPEG-4 when they're not the group that owns the license to MPEG-4?

They are saying that the MPEG-4 group should have never gotten the license because the technology violated their patent.

Not agreeing with it, just explaining it.

autrefois
Feb 14, 2006, 01:58 PM
I have no idea if Apple et al. are infringing on AT&T's patent. Assuming hypothetically they are--certainly it didn't take AT&T 7 years to figure this out. They obviously decided to wait back and let companies innovate using whatever part of the MPEG-4 technology they believe is theirs. That way they could swoop in to claim royalties off of others' innovation. That would be devious, but not illegal as far as I know. I think I'd have to hear more about the case to be sure what I think.

In other news...
If a company can be shown to willfully violate patent infringement, it could face treble damages and attorneys’ fees.

It could be worse though, imagine if they faced bass damages. (a little musical humor there, sorry :))

iMeowbot
Feb 14, 2006, 05:24 PM
The company now called AT&T is not the same AT&T from a few months ago. SBC bought out the AT&T assets and then adopted the AT&T name. The purchase would have inevitably included a review of things like patents, and so the new management is now seeing how some money can be extracted from them.

shamino
Feb 14, 2006, 05:50 PM
The company now called AT&T is not the same AT&T from a few months ago. SBC bought out the AT&T assets and then adopted the AT&T name. The purchase would have inevitably included a review of things like patents, and so the new management is now seeing how some money can be extracted from them.
SBC has a long reputation for underhanded business ethics.

And now they've got AT&T's patent portfolio.

I think we're seeing the dawn of the next SCO.

SPUY767
Feb 14, 2006, 06:20 PM
Apple legal doesn't put up with this sort of thing. AT&T, hypothetically, blew a load into a new technology called MPEG-4. Didn't do a damn thing with it. Sat around for 7 years while others, Mainly apple and the DivX people, nurture a technology and make it what it is today. Then, 7 years later, AT&T comes back, says hey I was tappin that years ago. Sure, I left her for dead in a urine-soaked alley, but now I want her back because the two of you rescued her, nursed her back to health, and got her implants and a face-lift. Bottom line, and excuse the wacky analogy, MPEG-4 is what it is not because of AT&T, but because of Apple Computer, and the DivX group. AT&T wants money for something that they had no hand in creating.

SiliconAddict
Feb 14, 2006, 07:25 PM
Apple legal doesn't put up with this sort of thing. AT&T, hypothetically, blew a load into a new technology called MPEG-4. Didn't do a damn thing with it. Sat around for 7 years while others, Mainly apple and the DivX people, nurture a technology and make it what it is today. Then, 7 years later, AT&T comes back, says hey I was tappin that years ago. Sure, I left her for dead in a urine-soaked alley, but now I want her back because the two of you rescued her, nursed her back to health, and got her implants and a face-lift. Bottom line, and excuse the wacky analogy, MPEG-4 is what it is not because of AT&T, but because of Apple Computer, and the DivX group. AT&T wants money for something that they had no hand in creating.

And absolutely NONE of that matters if AT&T's claims hold up.

shamino
Feb 15, 2006, 04:45 PM
AT&T, hypothetically, blew a load into a new technology called MPEG-4. Didn't do a damn thing with it. Sat around for 7 years ... Then, 7 years later, AT&T comes back, says hey I was tappin that years ago.
All absolutely true, but that means nothing. The patent system explicitly allows this kind of behavior.

If you're a big company, you can extort money from individuals and smaller companies. If you're a small guy that can't afford massive lawsuits, you've got a piece of paper you can hang on the wall.

When two large companies go against each other, usually both have a large patent portfolio. One's threats are countered by threats of lawsuits for infringing other patents. When they get bored with the press releases and sabre rattling, they end up cross-licensing each others tech and go on with life as if nothing happened.

In this case, it gets more interesting because Apple and others have paid for licenses from MPEGLA. MPEGLA might decide to sue AT&T over this, since this suit would affect every MPEG license holder. This could become very interesting. Especially if AT&T never made ISO aware of these patents before now.

macnulty
Feb 16, 2006, 12:27 AM
Not necessarily true. Federal courts have ruled against patent holders who have failed to prosecute their patent claims, one of the most famous ones against Jerome Lemelson who holds a patent on barcode technology. His patents were ruled unenforcable because he sat on his hands and did nothing, granted it was for 18 years, but the precedent exists. Apple will have a defense to SBC's patent trolling.

shamino
Feb 17, 2006, 10:33 AM
Not necessarily true. Federal courts have ruled against patent holders who have failed to prosecute their patent claims, one of the most famous ones against Jerome Lemelson who holds a patent on barcode technology. His patents were ruled unenforcable because he sat on his hands and did nothing, granted it was for 18 years, but the precedent exists. Apple will have a defense to SBC's patent trolling.
That's different. Patents expire after 17 years. Waiting until after expiration to get money from "violations" that you ignored while it was in force is different from selective enforcement while the patent is active.

Note, for example, the Unisys LZW patent (affecting the GIF file format) that was selectively enforced against CompuServe/AOL and a few other companies long after GIF became an internet standard. (BTW, that patent has since expired, so GIF is now unencumbered.)