Even just before Google released VP8 and WebM as Free Software, MPEG-LA and likely partners started rattling their (dark)light sabers threatening to assemble a patent pool to collect royalties from WebM users, just like they do with MPEG and H.264. Please bear with me while I show why it's nothing but a bluff to scare businesses and people away from the multimedia format that will displace the MPEG-LA golden-egg layer. Unless their FUD campaign succeeds, that is.

It can be taken as a given that MPEG-LA or other patent trolls will attempt to collect royalties from any multimedia formats. What got my attention was a combination of the fanfare, the timing and the wording of the press announcements.

Smart patent trolls don't scare people away from technology covered by their patents: they instead let businesses become dependent on it, and only then do they offer, erhm, protection.

MPEG-LA is doing no such thing. The announcement, echoed to anyone who would listen just as Google contributed WebM to humankind, clearly intends to steer people away from the new competitor. They seem terrified by it, and they should be. If they are yet to assemble a patent pool to cover VP8, right now they have nothing on it, and if On2's and Google's analyses are correct, that's all they will ever have.

Now, what if Google's and others' analyses are wrong? The nature of patents is such that, unless you can show all technology you use is at least 20 years old, you may find yourself at the wrong end of a patent lawsuit. It doesn't matter how many patents or patent licenses you've got, you're always at risk that someone else holds a patent that covers some technology your business depends on. Even if you did plenty of patent reseach, patents can be granted after your research, and if they were applied for early enough, you still lose.

This is just as true for WebM as it is for H.264 and any other codecs that MPEG-LA claims to control. Even if MPEG-LA offered to idemnify or hold harmless any of its licensees should a patent holder outside the pool initiate litigation, they can't possibly promise to obtain a license for the licensees. Any such patent holder could just decide not to license the patent at all.

What kind of stupid patent holder would do such a nonsensical thing?, you might ask. Well, what if Google held a patent that read on H.264, and that wasn't in MPEG-LA's pool?, I might respond.

I say we call on MPEG-LA's bluff. Worst case, if they succeed in pooling patents to cover VP8 and WebM, we'll be no worse off than with H.264.

So blong...