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Why is there a battle around MPEG?

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MPEG is known for a variety of reasons. It is the group that carried over analogue television and made it digital, multiplying by orders of magnitude the number of channels, it opened the way to new business models for audio, it enabled carriage of digital media on the internet, added media to the mobile experience, is poised to make immersive media real and genomics affordable, and more.

MPEG achieved these goals – and keeps on setting, working on and achieving more goals – with technical specifications of minuscule material or immaterial things that have a big impact on devices and service delivering infrastructures that are worth billions of USD.

I never tire of saying that every year products that rely on MPEG standards to function or to be attractive to buying global customers are worth more than 1 trillion USD. Similarly for services, which are worth more than 500 billion USD p.a.

There is something emblematically immaterial that has driven the success of MPEG – Patents, the engine that has allowed the MPEG machine to pile up records.

When MPEG developed its first and second standards it could draw from decades of research in audio and video coding. MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 were extremely successful and patent holders were handsomely rewarded. This encouraged more researchers and companies to file more patents so that, when MPEG engaged in new generations of coding standards it could draw from a wider and fresher set of technologies.

The story is not without hiccups. Overall, however, it is a success story that puts MPEG on a different league than any other ISO committee. This is shown by the figure below

You see that patent declarations made to ISO by entities believing they hold patents relevant to MPEG standards are 57.5% of ALL patent declarations received by ISO. The next committee is JTC 1/SC 31 Automatic identification and data capture techniques which totals less than ¼ of MPEG patent declarations (and it is a Subcommittee). All other committees mentioned in the table are JTC 1 SCs. Other ISO TCs have typically a low or even zero number of patent declarations.

You can get the data yourself from the ISO website.

MPEG should stay as the defender of a “business model” that has offered a relentless expansion of the business to all facets of the media industry and to consumers the possibility to enjoy newer and fresher experiences.

Probably you can answer yourself why there is a battle around MPEG.

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