The MPEG v. Alcatel Lucent trial, a major patent-licensing battle between MPEG-LA and Alcatel-Lucent, is set to begin Monday in Delaware. The licensing royalties at stake could impact the availability of DVD and high-definition television patents to hundreds of consumer electronics makers.
MPEG LA is a firm that licenses a pool of essential patents for DVD players and other consumer electronics. Paris-based Alcatel joined the MPEG LA pool in 2003, thereby promising to make its patents available to pool members. Lucent was not a member of the MPEG-LA pool.
According to the complaint, before Alcatel purchased Lucent in 2006, Lucent placed several of its patents in a trust for the benefit of Alcatel-Lucent to prevent the Lucent patents from being automatically added to the MPEG LA pool.
MPEG LA alleges that Lucent's agreement as an MPEG LA licensor obligated it to make available to licensees, through MPEG LA's MPEG-2 Patent Portfolio License, all MPEG-2 essential patents that Alcatel could license or sub-license, and not to take any action to subvert that commitment.
UPDATE: According to Alcatel Lucent, the patents were placed in the trust to protect their full value, and in any case the patents were not "essential" patents to which MPEG-LA might assert any claim.