A jury awarded over $1.5 billion dollars to Alcatel-Lucent in a patent infringement lawsuit against Microsoft over the MP3 audio format. Microsoft had previously licensed rights to use MP3 from Fraunhofer/Thompson, but the jury ruled that Alcatel-Lucent also holds patents which apply to MP3 and must be paid license fees as well. Needless to say, this poses a big problem for the other licensees, as anyone who hasn’t paid Alcatel-Lucent is exposed in the same way as Microsoft.
The old GIF patent issue led to the creation of the PNG format, which is unencumbered by intellectual property issues and is superior to it in every way. Can we expect to see Ogg Vorbis take off at this point? It’s already a well-established alternative to MP3, but it’s not supported by the iPod or iTunes. It’ll be interesting to see what shakes out from this court case. I’m sure Apple would love to see its customers move wholesale to AAC, but this is going to give Ogg advocates ammunition for another big push. As far as I’m concerned, Apple adding support for Ogg Vorbis would be a very good thing.