The MPEG Licensing Authority,
, this week said it is ready to start offering general licenses to companies wanting to use the MPEG-4 video format, after lengthy negotiations and concerns over the lack of royalty caps.
The organization, a coalition of about 20 companies that own patents essential to MPEG-4 technology, said it will make licenses available to software, hardware and consumer electronics firms on "fair, reasonable, nondiscriminatory" terms.
A copy of the license was not immediately available. However, according to supporting documentation from the group, most licenses are capped at $1m per licensee (typically a device manufacturer or service provider) per year.
MPEG-4 encoder/decoder makers will be charged at $0.25 per unit, with the $1m cap, with the first 50,000 shipments being royalty-free. Subscription service providers will be charged $0.25 per user or $0.000333 per minute, with the same royalty floor and ceiling. Enterprise-wide annual licenses are also available.
Companies that are making their patents available under the scheme include: Canon, France Telecom, Fujitsu, GE Technology, General Instrument, Hitachi, Hyundai Curitel, KDDI, Matsushita, Microsoft, Mitsubishi, Oki, Phillips, Samsung, Sanyo, Sharp, Sony, Telenor, Toshiba and Victory Co.