What’s clear at this point is that multiple companies have patents relating to HEVC technology, and they plan to ask for royalties from those who use their technology. This was the case with H.264 as well, and though many in the streaming industry grumbled about the royalties, this disgruntlement certainly didn’t limit H.264’s success.
Two things are different with HEVC. First, where H.264 involved a single group of patent holders administered by MPEG LA, it appears that some HEVC patent holders want to pursue royalties outside of a patent group, which will make it more challenging for HEVC users to license the technologies. According to “Patent Snafus Could Delay New Video Codec,” Mediatek and Qualcomm do not want to join the HEVC group formulated by MPEG LA, and Samsung hasn’t decided either way.
Our contact at MPEG LA reported that while the HEVC group had met three times as of February 2013, there was still no guarantee that a group would be formed or that all patent holders would join the group. So it appears that HEVC early adopters will have to decide to implement the technology without knowing the cost.
For large companies such as Adobe, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, that might be tenable; the H.264 license was capped, and it’s reasonable to assume that the HEVC license will also be capped. All four companies can amortize that cost over millions of product units shipped, and I think it’s highly likely that one or more of these companies will announce HEVC integration by NAB.