The patent fees proposed by the Via Licensing MHP patent pool have provoked a negative reaction from many countries and companies planning to use the DVB-MHP Multimedia Home Platform open standard middleware for interactive television.
As previously reported by informitv, Via Licensing, acting on behalf of a group of patent holders, has published a scale of fees that would charge public service broadcasters up to $100,000 a year from 2009.
“This is potentially the biggest hijack of a technology by a patent pool and likely to cause widespread damage to the iTV businesses and the broadcasting industry as a whole,” Anthony Smith-Chaigneau of Osmosys, a supplier of MHP software, told informitv.
Osmosys has launched an attack on the patent pool in an open letter that it published on its web site and circulated to the industry and the European Commission.
According to Osmosys, representatives from France, Spain and Italy have suggested that the announcement from Via Licensing will inhibit any further roll-out of MHP.
Osmosys says the patent pool initiative will only serve to harm the existing market and inhibit any uptake and roll-out of new interactive television services, which could also affect standardisation efforts around IPTV broadband television systems and mobile services.
“This situation is yet another stealth-like ‘killer blow’ to the hopes of an industry aiming to rectify the middleware problems of yesteryear and the very reason MHP was invented,” claims Osmosys. “We can only conclude that the patent pool members either do not understand the interactive television industry or are actively trying to kill the MHP standard for other business or financial reasons.”
Osmosys suggests that the proposed licensing fees are not fair, reasonable or non-discriminatory.
MHP is based on the Java technology developed by Sun. The patent pool represents other holders of patents claimed to be essential to the implementation of MHP. These include Comcast, Open TV, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Thomson and Time Warner Cable.
The open letter argues that licensing fees should not be imposed on broadcasters without evidence that the applications and services they create necessarily use any of the patents covered by the pool.
The letter calls upon the patent pool to issue the full list of patent holders and the essential patents in the pool.
The Digital Video Broadcasting Project responsible for developing the MHP standard apparently stated in 2000 that “Applications shall not carry any MHP royalty from the owner of IPR used in the MHP specifications”.
Peter MacAvock, executive director of the DVB said: “I’ve collected a number of highly adverse comments to the licensing programme. I’ve heard that the royalties are too onerous and don’t reflect the different broadcast distribution patterns within Europe. Accounting for MHP households as the basis for assessing royalties is unclear, especially in Europe free-to-air markets.”
DVB does not formally express views on commercial terms offered by patent holders, but Peter MacAvock added: “Overall this news must be terribly disheartening to those markets which are considering the commercialisation of MHP”.
In a statement, the legal director of DVB said: “DVB has worked hard to promote a favourable licensing and compliance environment for MHP. It would be extremely disappointing if the market concludes that the terms required by the MHP pool block further commercialisation.”