[theora] Some questions about Theora IP

Silvia Pfeiffer silviapfeiffer1 at gmail.com
Sat Feb 20 23:00:48 PST 2010

Hi Maciej,

It might be instructional to read the comments on my recent blog post
about the status of Theora's IP:

Both Monty and Dan Miller, ex-On2, confirm that the intention and
probably also the legal speak was meant to put everything VP3 out in
the hands of the community.

Also, interestingly, none of On2's patents seem to be directly related
to VP3, but all for optimisations. So there is no fundamental reason
not to have Theora implemented by a third party.

I wonder if these arguments may find it easier for Apple to reconsider
an implementation.


On Sun, Jul 5, 2009 at 1:09 AM, Maciej Stachowiak <mjs at apple.com> wrote:
> Hello Theora developers,
> I'm doing some cursory research into Theora's IP status in preparation
> for asking Apple to reconsider the possibility of shipping an
> implementation. I have a few questions and I'm hoping knowledgeable
> people can help out.
> 1) What are the terms of any patent licenses or disclaimers, and do
> they have field of use restrictions or limitations on code for which
> the patents are licensed?
> I found the following patent license in the original VP3.2 source: <http://svn.xiph.org/branches/vp32/vp32/VP32_license.txt
>  >. This appears to have a sort of field-of-use restriction on the
> patent license terms; products that don't support the original VP3
> bitstream do not get the patent grant. The patent license is also
> limited to the VP3.2 code itself and derivative works thereof.
> I also found this promise of patent non-assertion: <https://svn.xiph.org/trunk/theora/LICENSE
>  >. This doesn't have a field-of-use restriction, but it does appear
> to limit the promise not to assert to the original VP3 code and
> modifications to that code.
> While looking for info, I found this thread from 2004 asking if On2's
> patents on Theora were licensed for independent implementations: <http://lists.xiph.org/pipermail/theora/2004-July/000544.html
>  >. There didn't seem to be a clear conclusion at the time.
> Does anyone have further info on this? Are there additional agreements
> between On2 and Xiph besides the above documents?
> Note: I expect that in practice, On2 isn't looking to stop independent
> implementations, and perhaps didn't intend the limitation on the
> patent disclaimer at all. However, companies have been known to
> suddenly become more litigious (for example if they get axquired), and
> in such a case I would expect a literal reading of the patent license
> and the promise not to assert. It also seems important for the patent
> status to be really clear for purposes of the W3C Patent Policy, if
> Theora were to be required by HTML5 or other specifications. I'm not
> sure a royalty-free patent license that doesn't cover independent
> implementations would be good enough. Perhaps whoever did the
> negotiating with On2 could get them to publish a clearer statement.
> 2) Is there any public information about what patents On2 holds that
> may read on Theora? (This information isn't essential but I couldn't
> find it stated anywhere.)
> 3) Has anyone done any research to determine if there might be patents
> that read on Theora held by parties other than On2? I know this is a
> sensitive topic, and anyone who has that kind of info might not be
> able to share it. But if anyone has done even partial research, that
> would be very useful. I'm wondering for example if anyone has done
> some of the more obvious obvious checks, like studying the patents
> that are known to apply to MPEG-2 Video,  MPEG-4 Part 2, or H.264/AVC,
> since Theora has a roughly similar basic design.
> 4) Has On2 ever said anything about whether parties besides them hold
> patents on VP3?
> Thanks,
> Maciej
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