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Sisvel Launches Patent Pools for VP9 and AV1

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Luxembourg-based Sisvel International S.A. announced two new patent pools today offering licenses on patents "relevant to the VP9 and AV1 specifications." The pools apply solely to "consumer display devices," like smartphones, computers, and TVs, and "consumer non-display devices," like set-top-boxes, dongles, and graphics cards. The standard rate for VP9 is € 0.24 for display devices and € 0.08 for non-display devices, while AV1 is € 0.32 and € 0.11 respectively.

Regarding content, the Sisvel website states "The licenses offered by Sisvel do not cover: content on physical digital media storage or non-physical content distribution." This seems to indicate that there is no intent to claim royalties on encoded content, but it’s not 100% clear that royalties won’t be pursued under this or another license.

Here’s the press release for the pools, and here are the licensing terms.

I spoke with intellectual property attorney David Long, editor of the Essential Patent Blog. He was not familiar with the announcement but agreed to answer general questions about new pools. In general, he said that most companies shipping technology products understand that their products may infringe upon third-party IP, so the formation of these pools shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone designing AV1 or VP9 encode or decode into their products. He recommended that companies shipping products that may be covered by the pools start performing due diligence to determine if their products infringe upon these patents.

Unified Patents is a membership organization that has aggressively contested patent abuse and recently challenged the validity of 29% of the HEVC-related patents in the Velos Media HEVC pool. Commenting on the Sisvel announcement, Unified Patents CEO Kevin Jakel said, "We continue to be concerned with the lack of transparency in these licensing programs. Sisvel publishes its pricing for VP9 and AV1, but not how it came about with this price. They also have not provided a public list or even number of patents which they consider essential. It makes it very hard for anyone to ascertain how relevant the patents are and how to value them. This creates uncertainty for companies deploying technology which we think is negative for everyone."

We sent a list of questions to Sisvel, including regarding content royalties, but received no response as of late Wednesday. We also reached out to Google and the Alliance for Open Media, but received no response. We’ll update this article if and when any of these parties respond.

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