Google's patent license for VP8 [was: Google WebM?]

Ben Tilly btilly at
Thu May 20 21:50:20 UTC 2010

On Thu, May 20, 2010 at 12:53 PM, Lawrence Rosen <lrosen at> wrote:
> The way I could interpret this Google license, the world is being granted a
> license to patent claims "necessarily infringed by this implementation of
> VP8," and then those patent claims are licensed for authorized derivative
> works (which are no longer "this implementation"). Should I infer that
> Google is licensing its necessary patent claims for much more than "this
> implementation"? Or not? A patent and copyright license that allows
> modifications is illusory and meaningless without also licensing those same
> necessary patent claims for those authorized modifications. Or perhaps
> Google is locking us in to its own specific implementation of VP8, thereby
> frustrating software freedom and innovation.

I fail to see any drafting ambiguity at all here.  The patent license
that Google is giving is good for all patent claims in all patents it
owns, or will acquire, that this implementation could infringe on.
There is no stated limitation on how you may use that license, so you
are free to use that license for this implementation, modify it,
create a new one, etc.

The effect is similar to them asserting, "We have no patent claims on
anything this implementation does" with two major differences.  The
first is that it is stronger in that should they acquire a patent
covering some of what this codec does, they will continue to not
assert any patent claims against it.  The second, more interesting,
difference is that you lose this patent license should you bring
patent action against this codec.

The second difference is fascinating to me.  I would not at all be
surprised if Google knows it has, or has applied for, patents with
claims that this codec infringes on.  Those are a complete non-issue,
except that they provide Google with ammunition for a counter-suit
should someone file a patent suit against this codec.

But that is beside the point.  My reading is that, unless you're
planning to take part in getting a patent suit filed, there are no
hidden strings to worry about here.

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