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IMTC Fights Patent Chaos in Multimedia Standardization

Multimedia Historical Standards Archive supports protection of companies' interests - Battles over standards and licensing lead to - million dollar losses and delays in technology implementation.

Geneva, May 6, 2003 - The International Multimedia Telecommunications Consortium (IMTC) today has announced the creation of a "Historical" archive relevant to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). This archive is designed to support the protection of its members against possible patent raiders, while assisting in enforcing the legitimate patent interests of its members. This announcement came at the opening session of this year's IMTC/Wainhouse Research Spring Forum which is currently taking place at the Geneva International Conference Center. The three-day meeting brings together some 80 experts from the field of multimedia telecommunications to discuss "Rich Media Communications: Realities of Deployment".

The new historical IMTC archive will contain information relevant to multimedia technology and standards, documenting the standardization process, as well as R&D efforts in the field of multimedia telecommunications. As was pointed out at the Geneva meeting, there is an increasing need for such protection since patent raiders of multimedia standards are increasingly trying to reap the benefits of the efforts of others in this highly complex and competitive area of communications, often more than a decade after the standards have been adopted. Such action interferes with the "real" patent owners' ability to enforce valid IPR claims, and makes life of implementers and users of the standard more difficult. "Our member companies invest huge amounts into this future market and we cannot allow their results to be jeopardized by lengthy patent disputes with uncertain outcomes," said Dr. Istvan Sebestyen, President of IMTC. "The field of telecommunications is not only a competitive multibillion-dollar market, it also involves highly complex technologies, where the standards created by Standard Defining Organizations (such as ITU-T, ISO/IEC, etc.) are full of claimed "real" and "unreal" IPRs". Current IPR policies of standards bodies are not geared to deal with a situation in which 30-40 different entities claim patents related to a given multimedia standard. Unfortunately, the most important standardization work that affects IPR occurs at the "lowest" working group level. Often, this work is not well documented, or the documentation is maintained for a short period of time or not kept at all by the standards body. Therefore, it seems easy to for patent raiders to claim rights, involving multimedia product vendors and service providers in time-consuming and costly lawsuits. Moreover, upon patent examination those very important standardization documents are usually not originally screened by the patent offices for "prior art". The IMTC believes that its new IPR archive will provide companies with useful information to help fend off invalid patents and enforce valid ones. The financial risks for vendors and operators can be enormous, running into many millions of dollars. Now with multimedia telecommunications emerging as a promising market, the IMTC strives to ensure that our members are better protected against such risks, while giving them a powerful tool to pursue their own valid IPR claims."

The IMTC Multimedia Historical Standards Archive stores contributions to meetings, reports, records of IPR licensing declarations, copies of standard organizations patent databases, publications such as journal articles, books, etc., with much of this information originating 10 to 25 years ago. All records are kept electronically and can be accessed over the Web by IMTC members only. Due to the huge amount of information, and the difficulty to find old documentation, archives containing this kind of information are incomplete, and must be built up step by step. For example, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) keeps fairly good records on ITU-T SG level, (except for the "Temporary meeting documents" and "Delayed Contributions"), but none on the Rapporteurs Group level, which is the most important for IPR work. In addition, prior to 1995, the majority of records were still paper, making them almost inaccessible for today's purposes. This has led to an alarming situation, where major approved standards are running into serious problems, and licensing becomes unreasonably complex, expensive, and time-consuming, lasting up to years. This is leading to very costly IPR disputes, as can be witnessed in the case of JPEG or MPEG-4. The result of such seemingly esoteric disputes has been financial losses, patent fights, as well as delays in the implementation of new technologies.

The IMTC Archive has already started its first archive contributions. They mainly consist of the organization's own records plus records provided by members. As an example, IMTC has been able to secure a very complete scanned documentation of the origin of the ITU-T H 261 standard that became the "father" of MPEG1, MPEG2, H 263 and MPEG4. Also, the ITU-T documentation leading to ITU-T H.320 Multimedia Systems have been scanned. This scan contains technical contributions, meeting reports, participant lists, IPR statements, etc. This kind of information is indispensable for any company today involved in defense of video coding IPR.

The IMTC's new Multimedia Historical Standard Archive provides a central source of IPR information, thus supporting defense against invalid patents and hopefully discouraging the filing of such patents in future standards. By clarifying the IPR situation for approved multimedia standards, the IMTC promotes the adoption of new technologies and the development of standard multimedia telecommunications products.

About the IMTC
The International Multimedia Telecommunications Consortium (IMTC) is an industry-leading non-profit organization whose mission is to promote, encourage, and facilitate the development and implementation of interoperable multimedia conferencing solutions based on open international standards. The IMTC hosts interoperability testing events and demonstrations throughout the world. Over the past three years the IMTC has hosted more than 60 interoperability-testing events to test T.120, H.320, H.323, H.324, SIP, and Voice over IP products and services with each other. The IMTC Board of Directors includes representatives from Cisco Systems, Delithium Networks, France Telecom, Nokia, Polycom, RADVISION, Ridgeway, Siemens AG, Sony, TANDBERG, Telverse. The San Ramon, California-based consortium comprises close to 80 member organizations from around the globe. Membership is open to any interested party, including vendors of audio, document, and video conferencing hardware and software; academic institutions; government agencies; and non-profit organizations. "The IMTC is making Rich Media happen Anywhere, Anytime." Further information on IMTC can be found at http://www.imtc.org.

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