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OCAP licenses to run $1.50 per device, 30 cents per sub

Wed, 07/13/2005 - 8:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner, CED

Via Licensing Corp. has released the licensing terms for patents linked to the 1.0 versions of OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP) and the Digital Video Broadcasting Multimedia Home Platform (DVB-MHP).

Under those terms, OCAP fees will run $1.50 per consumer device (a digital set-top or television, for example) for manufacturers, and, for cable operators, 30 cents per subscriber per year, or a one-time five-year license for $1.50.

DVB-MHP fees will run $2 per device, and 25 cents per household per year, or $1.25 under the five-year option.

Those terms should put CE manufacturers at ease. Many feared that the license could run upwards of $5 or $10 per device. The terms might also remove a financial hurdle for operators that might have been holding back OCAP or MHP trials and launches until those fees were known.

Having those fees identified will enable operators and manufacturers to "fine-tune their analysis on whether to deploy either of the technologies," said Mark Allen, executive vice president of technology licensing at OpenTV, one of the pool's patent holders.

Although most CableLabs specifications are created under a royalty-free pool, OCAP incorporates the bulk of MHP, which uses a royalty-bearing model.

Via Licensing, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dolby Laboratories, is administering the OCAP and DVB-MHP patent licensing programs and patent pools on behalf of the patent holders.

Those patent holders, which include a couple of large MSOs, stand to reap some tidy revenue when those middleware platforms are deployed and further supported by the CE industry. Via Licensing did not disclose how those fees will be allocated among the pool members, but noted that they will be divvied up based on a predetermined formula approved by the patent pool members.

In addition to OpenTV, identified patent holders include Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable, Panasonic, Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung Electronics and Thomson.

Other patent holders are part of the group, but have yet to be disclosed publicly. Microsoft Corp. presently is not among that group.

The goal is to have a final patent license agreement available by Q4 2005. But that's considered an "aggressive target," according to Jason Johnson, Via Licensing's director of licensing and business development. He anticipates the launch could happen by early 2006.

"No one is legally committed, or even on a handshake committed, until the definitive agreements are done," Allen said.

So, why are the licensing terms different for OCAP and MHP?

Johnson said OCAP is a more extensible platform than MHP, and will be used to support not only interactive services, but also program guides and digital video recording software.

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