Patents : Video discs stumble into legal minefield

时间:2019-02-27 04:03:03166网络整理admin

By Barry Fox ONLY lawyers will be making money out of Digital Video Discs (DVD). The companies that developed the technology have fallen out over plans to create a one-stop licence shop. Potential manufacturers face a legal minefield as well as high claims for royalties because patents are split between different companies. Pioneer and Sony of Japan and the Dutch-based Philips are working together, with the latter granting licences for all three. The alliance has little clout though because other key patents are owned by two other Japanese companies, Toshiba and Matsushita and the American company DiscoVision Associates. DiscoVision is owned by Pioneer but will be selling its own licences for DVD, CD and laser video disc technologies. Its patents will last into the next century. The French company Thomson, meanwhile, is collecting royalties on optical discs thanks to a legal loophole which has kept old patents alive in the US. Outside the DVD consortium, IBM says it came up with the idea of storing two recordings on the same side of a DVD disc, at different depths. But 3M once claimed to have invented the technique. To make matters worse, MPEG LA of Denver, Colorado, administers a bundle of patents on the video compression system used by DVD. Also staking its claim is the Optical Recording Corporation of Toronto in Canada, which earns royalties from the CD system. Any manufacturer wanting to make DVD discs or players must negotiate with all these rights holders and pay the royalties they ask. The Philips/Pioneer/Sony pool is charging a 3.5 per cent royalty on each player,