December 2001: Just because it’s a standard doesn’t mean there aren’t patent holders lurking in the bushes, and nowhere is this more true than in the confusing jungle of MPEG-2. The MPEG-LA group, formed in 1996 as a limited liability company, has emerged as a major coalition of patent holders and includes Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Scientific-Atlanta, Sony Corp., U.S. Philips Corp. and Victor Co. of Japan. This group owns 44 patents in MPEG technology. Also part of the group are Columbia University and the City of New York, which also own rights to several MPEG-2 Patents. The group has already taken on Compaq in a much-publicized suit, and we see here that Compaq as well as Apple and Hewlett-Packard are license holders, so we can guess how the Compaq case came out, and HP and Apple are also playing ball with MPEG-LA.
The suit against Dell was filed in the U.S. District Court in Delaware on Friday, December 7. Whether Dell sees this as a Pearl Harbor-style sneak attack is unknown. As of this writing, the company isn’t making comments.