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MPEG LA Requests Patents for High Efficiency Video Coding

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With H.264 firmly entrenched as the market-leading codec, the first of July witnessed the closing of one era and the beginning of another. 

On the new beginnings front, MPEG LA, the licensing group that drove the MPEG-2 patent pool and attempted to generate a pool for On2 Technologies' VP8, has now put forth a request for essential patents surrounding a subset of video compression known as HEVC, or High Efficiency Video Coding. 

HEVC has its roots partially in Scalable Video Coding (SVC), in that it looks to define a variety of parameters at which video can be decoded for various bitrates, resolutions, and aspect ratios. In addition, the advent of the high-efficiency decoding schemes do not limit an encoder from achieving better efficiencies as long as the decoding can be accomplished by any HEVC-compliant decoder. 

HEVC also has partial roots in the newly ratified MPEG Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH), in that HEVC uses as its video codec basis H.264 and the decoding could be fragmented along the same lines as an MPEG DASH profile. HEVC also uses AAC for its audio codec, including the high-efficiency version of AAC (HE-AAC) that's more commonly referred to as iTunes+ and uses variable bitrate audio compression.

"MPEG LA is pleased to assist in facilitating a convenient, independently administered, one-stop patent licensing alternative to assist users with implementation of their technology choices and invites all patent holders to participate," says MPEG LA president and CEO Larry Horn.

July 1, 2012, also marks the end of a fairly active industry forum, the MPEG Industry Forum. But its backers say this closure of MPEG-IF is a victory, not a defeat.

"MPEG Industry Forum activities are now being wound up," writes Ericsson's David Price, who served as the most recent president of MPEG-IF. "By July 1, all remaining assets will be put into the hands of the Open IPTV Forum."

Launched in June, 2000, at a time when the streaming industry was splintered along the lines of several proprietary codecs -- including Microsoft's Video for Windows and WindowsMedia, RealVideo, and early versions of On2's VP codec series -- the MPEG-IF set about to "educate and evangelize an emerging standards-based solution" with the help of a variety of groups and news outlets, including StreamingMedia.com. 

Led by Sebastian Moeritz, now a professor at St. Petersburg University and the chairman of MPEG-IF, the industry forum advocated for H.264 (AVC or MPEG-4 Part 10) to replace the aging MPEG-2 codec in most use cases. According to MPEG-IF, that goal has been reached.

"As silicon continued to advance, alternatives to MPEG-2 emerged in many forms," writes Price. "Slowly but surely, H.264 gained mindshare and then market share and today is clearly the dominant codec of choice replacing MPEG-2 around the world."

In addition to turning over the assets of MPEG-IF to the Open IPTV Forum, Fremont, California-based MPEG-IF also closed down its interoperability test rounds, the MPEG IF Master Class series of information events, and its tech lists. 

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