NEW YORK – After more than a decade striving to untangle proprietary claims among the IP juggernauts of CD, DVD and Blu-ray technologies, 15 companies with essential patents have finally forged a patent pool called One-Blue, LLC.
One-Blue CEO Roel Kramer, a retired former Philips executive, said in a recent interview with EE Times that One-Blue’s one-stop licensing program covers “the vast majority of Blu-ray and optical patents that include DVD and CD.”
One-Blue is asking for royalty rates ranging from $12 for a Blu-ray Disk recorder and $9 for a BD player to $7 for a BD playback drive in a PC and 9¾ cents per pre-recorded BD movie disk.
It remains to be seen whether this is asking too much too late for emerging consumer OEMs in China and India. Kramer, a former CTO for Philips Semiconductors and later CTO and executive vice president at Philips Consumer Electronics, said he is confident that One-Blue will offer enough carrots and sticks to make it a viable joint licensing program for the global industry.
One-Blue reflects fundamental changes in the consumer electronics industry. Leading system brands in the West and in Japan no longer make their own DVD/Blu-ray players or disks. Instead, they source their products from China or elsewhere. Established Western and Japanese brands also face much tougher competition from a growing number of new Chinese vendors with their own brand names. Whether such emerging OEMs are paying royalties to DVDs and Blu-Ray, however, is another matter.
Traditional IP powerhouses seem to agree that now is the time to end long-running disputes in order to protect and enforce their IP against industry newcomers.
The initial breakthrough for One-Blue came when three long-time rivals with competitive histories and cross-licensing agreements came together. In February 2009, Panasonic agreed to join with Philips and Sony to launch a patent pool. The pool expanded when Hitachi, Samsung and Cyberlink joined. Since August, 2011 when One-Blue officially rolled out its licensing program, others have joined, including Dell, Fujitsu, JVC Kenwood, Hewlett-Packard, LG Electronics, Pioneer, Sharp, Taiyo Yuden and Yamaha.
Source: One-Blue, LLC
One-Blue, however, isn’t exactly a “one-stop shop” for those seeking a Blu-ray license. Another joint licensing program called Premier BD
Columbia Technology Ventures, Disney Enterprises, Mitsubishi Electric, Technicolor, Toshiba and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.Patent coverage
One-Blue’s patent pool is said to cover not just IP related to Blu-ray but also DVDs and CDs. Many patents specific to CDs have expired as utility patents last only 20 years, said Bill Lenihan, One-Blue’s director of IP licensing. Nonetheless, there are still some valid patents covering CD playback format for text characters, he added.
One-Blue’s patent program covers hardware (players, recorders, drives), PC software and disks (read-only, recordable, rewritable and high capacity). In hardware and PC software, the program includes essential patents for Blu-ray disk, DVD and CD standards. The program also includes essential patents for the Blu-ray disk Standards.
Corralling various parties has been no easy task since they filed patents under different national patent laws and created a rats’ nest of cross licensing agreements among themselves.