Mobile DRM patents are pooled under single license

Five companies reach tentative agreement on joint patent portfolio license for OMA DRM 1.0 spec

The patents needed for an overarching Digital Rights Management (DRM) system for protecting digital music, video, and software from illegal file sharing over mobile devices have been successfully pooled together, the film and music technology company MPEG LA announced Thursday.

Five companies have reached a tentative agreement on the terms of a joint patent portfolio license for use of the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) DRM 1.0 specification. The companies involved are ContentGuard Holdings, Intertrust Technologies, Matsushita Electric Industrial, Koninklijke Philips Electronics, and Sony, MPEG LA said.

The proposed agreement has been hammered out under the auspices of MPEG LA, a Denver company that already oversees licenses for MPEG-4, the multimedia digital compression standard developed by the Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG), as well as its predecessor MPEG-2.

Handset makers will be charged US$1 to include the OMA DRM 1.0 standard into a mobile phone, while content owners will pay royalties representing one percent of the consumer selling price of their services.

In a similar previous arrangement, MPEG LA pooled the MPEG-2 patents of nine organizations and began offering a batch license to all the patents needed to comply with the standard, with the license proceeds shared among the patent holders. MPEG LA's pooling approach was approved by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1997 despite charges that the licensing plans violated antitrust law.

According to MPEG LA, the agreement for the OMA DRM Patent Portfolio License marks the first time that digital rights patents have been pooled.

The OMA, an industry group of mobile operators and handset makers based in La Jolla, California, introduced OMA DRM version 1.0 in November 2002 as a way to provide basic protection for content delivered to mobile devices. The OMA DRM 1.0 release is already used in a variety of handsets from Nokia, Siemens, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, as well as servers, middleware, applications and software from Nokia, Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, NEC, and Philips Electronics, among others.

Last February, the OMA launched Version 2.0 of its DRM specification designed to provide even stronger protections. The updated version allows compliant devices to receive and play encrypted files, and works with devices using Wi-Fi networks based on the IEEE 802.11 standards.

MPEG LA said that the OMA DRM Patent Portfolio License is expected to cover products that use the OMA DRM 1.0 specification, as well as those that use both OMA DRM 1.0 and 2.0. The group aims to pool the patents for OMA DRM 2.0 by the middle of the year.