Standards: Appendix J - MPEG-4 Licensing & Patents

Here is a list which shows whether each of the 34 parts of the MPEG-4 standard is encumbered with a patent.

This is an Appendix to our series of articles on Standards.

Read carefully where a standard describes whether patents apply to its use. It is usually very near the front. The authors may not have known which patents apply when the standard was drafted and the descriptions may be incomplete. It is worth the time and effort to research this before committing to the use of a standard to avoid license fees later on.

Details of the patents known to ISO are described in a downloadable spreadsheet but there may be other patents that they do not know about until the owner declares their interest in the standards:

This list of MPEG-4 parts indicates whether they are encumbered by patents:

Part Content Patents
1 Systems Yes
2 Visual Yes
3 Audio Yes
4 Conformance testing Yes
5 Reference software Yes
6 DMIF Yes
7 Reference software for A/V objects No
8 Carriage over IP No
9 Reference hardware No
10 AVC Yes
11 BIFS (Scene description) Yes
12 ISO Base Media File Format Yes
13 IPMP No
14 MP4 file format Yes
15 Carriage of NAL format video Yes
16 AFX - Animation Framework Yes
17 Streaming Text Format No
18 Font compression and streaming Yes
19 Synthesised texture stream Yes
20 LASeR (Lightweight scene description) Yes
21 MPEG-J extension for rendering No
22 Open Font Format (OFF) Yes
23 Symbolic Music Representation (SMR) No
24 Audio and systems interaction No
25 3D-Graphics compression model Yes
26 Audio conformance testing No
27 3D-Graphics conformance testing Yes
28 Composite font representation No
29 Web Video Coding (WVC) Yes
30 Timed text and other visual overlays in ISOBMFF No
31 Video coding for browsers Yes
32 File format reference software and conformance No
33 Internet Video Coding (IVC) Yes
34 Bitstream Syntactic Description Language (SDL) No


The list will evolve because patents don't last forever (typically 20 years) and submarine patents do not surface right away. Almost all of the patents that encumber MPEG-4 Part 2 (Visual) have expired. The patents on AVC will take a little longer but will all have expired by 2030. HEVC will take longer still but eventually will be patent free.

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