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Japan preps one-stop patent licensing scheme for DTV tuners

Posted: 11 Aug 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Uldage? Matsushita? Mitsubishi? Sony? digital TV tuner?

In an effort to accelerate the spread of DTV broadcasting in Japan, an industry initiative is preparing a one-stop patent licensing scheme for consumer electronics devices with DTV tuners.

"It would be the world first attempt to enable one-stop patent licensing on a device basis, which should be the sole patent licensing solution for digital device manufacturers," said Yoshihide Nakamura, president and CEO of Uldage Inc., the newly established licensing joint venture company.

Uldage appealed to patents owners on to join the licensing program, issuing a call for patents that are essential to Japanese digital TV standardized by the Association of Radio Industries and Business (ARIB).

"In the analog era, the number of patent holders involved in one technology was limited, but in the digital era, the number increased," said Nakamura. "For example, the main patents for VHS were owned by three companies, but the number of patent holders involved in DVD grew to 35 parties."

Hence, one company is no longer able to make a digital device using only its own technologies and must now negotiate with other patent owners. The growing number of licenses required for one device makes it too costly and inefficient for one company to handle them, Nakamura argued. The company proposes to pool essential patents for Japan's digital TV broadcasts and administrate and license them for its members.

Matsushita Electric, Mitsubishi Electric and Sony Corp. founded Uldage last month, equally dividing the equity. A committee consisting of its three founders, Hitachi, Sharp Corp., Toshiba Corp., Victor Company of Japan and Japan Broadcasting Corp. will work on the structure. Other companies are expected to join Uldage in the future.

"MPEG LA is the most successful patent pool scheme," said Nakamura. Uldage's scheme is slightly different. While MPEG-LA licenses patents for individual technologies, Uldage intends to provide all patents required to develop a DTV receiver in a single transaction. "If Uldage's business scheme takes off, it will be possible for manufacturers to make products at lower cost, and that will accelerate the digital TV reception in Japan."

The Japanese initiative covers patents needed to implement a batch of ARIB specs defining Japanese DTV broadcasts, including terrestrial, terrestrial mobile and satellite broadcasting. Though the ARIB standards include compression technologies, Uldage's patent pool is designed to primarily cover patents for communications and transmission technologies and electronic program guides. It will exclude existing patent pool programs such as MPEG LA. Thus, MPEG video standards and the IEEE1394 standards and home server-based broadcasting systems are excluded.

"We'll make an effort to reach an agreement with existing bodies like MPEG-LA so they allow us to license their patents concerning Japanese digital TV broadcasting," Nakamura said. "There may be a case where some of essential patent owners would not support our patent pool program."

The first call for patent submissions will end on Sept. 8. The Japan Intellectual Property Arbitration Center, an independent dispute resolution organization, will evaluate submitted patents for relevance to ARIB specs.

Uldage expects to hold its first patent holders' meeting in mid-November. Once ready, the licensing program will cover products from DTV sets to various devices with TV tuners such as DVD recorders, car navigation systems, PCs and mobile phones with DTV tuners.

- Yoshiko Hara
EE Times

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