MP3 licensing situation gets uglier by the minute

— 12:55 PM on March 6, 2007

A U.S. court recently ordered Microsoft to pay damages of $1.5 billion to Alcatel-Lucent for using MP3 technology without a license from the telecommunications firm. Like many other companies, Microsoft had purchased a license to MP3 tech from Fraunhofer, but Alcatel-Lucent says it also has patents on the technology. Some believe the ruling essentially gives Alcatel-Lucent free reign to sue other Fraunhofer licensees, but according to an article by the New York Times, even more companies are after a piece of the MP3 licensing pie.

The article cites several firms, including Philips, an Italian company called Sisvel, and Texas MP3 Technologies, who all say they own patent rights to parts of the MP3 standard. Sisvel got German authorities to remove players from a SanDisk booth at a German trade show a few months ago, and Texas MP3 Technologies sued Apple, Samsung, and SanDisk last month. According to the chairman of the International Organization for Standardization's MPEG group, the current situation is "in general not positive for the wide adoption of the [MP3] standard."

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