Originally Posted by sprockkets
The only clause for losing the rights to a license over webm is if you sue the webm organization. That's to use it as a bargaining chip if MPEG-LA holders decide to sue.
I can't say for sure because I'm not a patent lawyer, but I've read the WebM licensing terms, and they read something along the lines of 'taking part in or facilitating patent litigation against WebM', which in legalese could just as well imply that signing a cross-licensing deal with MPEG-LA to ensure you can keep selling your VP8-based product would also mean that Google invalidates your WebM license. You _are_ 'facilitating' or 'taking part in' patent litigation if you would in that case, because by signing some cross-licensing deal with MPEG-LA you'd basically admit VP8 infringes on H264 patents (why else would you negotiate with them in the first place)
Nowhere does MPEG-LA grant any indemification either if another patent holder sues over h.264. While the situation appears better it took over a decade for all the patent lawsuits to be cleared up over the ancient MPEG1-Layer III audio codec.
You're missing the whole point behind a patent pool. The fact that almost every consumer-electronics and video giant in the world is part of the MPEG-LA means that no-one in their right mind will ever even think of suing them for patent infringement. The sheer amount of patents in the pool and the almost unlimited pockets of the patent holders would obliterate every other company that holds video encoding patents. I know it isn't pretty, but that's what patents and patent pools are for: to assure mutual destruction in case of a patent war. Why else do you think big companies like Microsoft and Apple build huge patent portfolios? They _know_ they infringe on each others patents, but they also know it is not in their best interest to start patent litigation against each other because it will boomerang back at them.
Except for the fact that On2's work predates H.264 and there is a chance that MPEG are liable for infringement. VP8/webm is inferior as a codec, but that is partly because they didn't implement the one main feature that could make it better, b-frames, because they didn't want to step on MPEG's patents.
VP8 most definitely doesn't predate H264, the H264 standard evolved from earlier ITU standards and has been in development for 2 decades. It's also not true that VP8's main shortcoming is lack of B-frames, there are multiple other things stripped out from the codec to sidestep H264 patents (adaptive quantization comes to mind). Google for 'x264 vp8 analysis' to find an extremely detailed analysis of VP8 that clearly shows how VP8 is nothing more than 'H264 minus all the good stuff'.
There are probably many aspects of H.264 that are not software based, but this whole argument that patents are necessary to protect work is a bit ridiculous; copyright grants the necessary protection needed for software.
You know I used to think the same a few years ago, until I started working for a company that built advanced software solutions that relied on interoperability with tools from other vendors. Copyright might be sufficient for closed and proprietary systems, but not for open standards such as H264. By publishing (or leaking) the specifications required to implement H264, you've basically given away everything. No-one even needs to reverse engineer anything at all, they can just implement the spec and profit from it as though they invented it themselves. That's what I meant when I said "if there's just one example where software patents make sense it would be video encoding". The world is not served by proprietary codecs that only work on some systems supported by the vendor, and it is also not served by a complete stalling of any investment or progress in the development of better video codecs.
Patents were never meant to protect ideas, nor math or software, yet the stupid patent office grants them day in and day out.
H264 is neither 'math' nor 'software', it is a complete pipeline of multiple interconnected parts and technologies, some of which are specified using traditional math, some of which are specified as data interfaces, some of which are specified as (pseudo) code snippets. The specification is far more complex than just a few mathematical expressions or a few lines of code. If you really want to play the strawman card and point to the stupid patent office and how they should not grant software patents I know a few counter examples: H264 is a billion times more complex than a paperclip, a 3M post-it note, or the cover on your cup of starbucks coffee, yet those are all patented.
Apple's multi touch patents are a good example of this. They didn't invent a multi-touch screen, just a gesture and the whole scrolling routine. The problem with this is the idea is implemented 100% in software, and typically in software you can accomplish tasks only one way. What if I find a different way to implement that idea/feature in software? Am I still infringing?
Apple patenting a sliding switch on a screen is just a software implementation of a hardware switch. Nothing new, nothing novel about it; just a software routine made to work as a switch on software. Yet it was granted a patent. Now those who use android are liable because it uses a connecting dot system to unlock the phone, which is more novel and non obvious that apple's idea by far. Neither deserve nor need patent protection. Each requires their own work and programming to implement, and as long as neither steals source code to do the work, it isn't stealing the mythical "IP".
These are all interesting examples some of which are borderline trivial, but that's not the point. Like I said: the patent system _is_ rotten, it _is_ being abused, and there _are_ trivial patents and software solutions that should never ever have been patentable. That doesn't mean that there _are not_ software systems or solutions that _do_ deserve to be patentable, because they are non-trivial to invent, yet easy to reverse-engineer. That's what I mean with 'the world is not always black vs white or good vs evil', there are all kinds of shades of grey in between, and in my view, H264 is much closer to white than it is to black.