Originally Posted by JHBrandt
I remember when patents used to be 17 years, but some industries (mostly pharmaceuticals, I think) lobbied for an extension.
For software patents, 20 years might as well be a lifetime. By the time they expire, they've mostly been replaced by newer, better algorithms anyway.
But MP3 is an exception in that's still fairly widely used. MPEG-2 probably will be too, at least as long as ATSC 1.0 sticks around (which will probably be a while, despite the best efforts of ATSC 3.0 boosters).
As you say, the per-unit cost isn't that much at this point, at least for the decoders, which sell a lot of units. Problem is, many royalties require a big "down payment" up-front, which deters start-ups from licensing them before they know their product will succeed. It's also bad for niche products like digital RF modulators. An iView may only come down by $3, but I'd guess an ATSC modulator (far fewer units sold) could come down by $130 or more.
You'd think by now, though, Roku would be confident enough to pony up, but I guess they've gotten this far without MPEG-2, so maybe they figure, why bother?
You made me look, so here it is: it was 17 years in the US until 1995, when it was changed to 20 years to conform with most international patent laws.
Copyright terms are almost impossible to figure out now due to the "Disney effect". Mickey Mouse kept lobbying Congress to keep extending the term, to something like a billion years after the death of the copyright holder, and since Uncle Walt is cryogenically frozen (or at least his head), he still hasn't technically died.
So one day cockroaches will rule the Earth, but they still won't be able to make a copy of "Steamboat Willie"...
MPEG-2 and other TV patents (such as Dolby Digital 5.1) were the bribes that the Japanese used to get Congress to pass the digital broadcast TV law. Previously, technology used in TVs that was standardized by the government was required to be put into public domain without royalties. When color TV was standardized, RCA owned the patent on it, but gave it up because they believed they would make SOOOOOOOOOOO much money selling TVs the patent revenue would be irrelevant. Worked out well for them (they used to be the Google of radio/TV electronic equipment in the 20s-40s, by the 60s they barely existed).
So the Japanese went to Congress and said that digital TV patents would make all these American companies rich, and you know what, most of what they do at Dolby Labs in San Francisco is just cash royalty checks. But the Japanese, just like RCA, found out the hard way that the path to riches wasn't selling a whole bunch of TVs (Sony in particular is rumored to lose $100 on every TV they sell in the US, but they keep doing it to "save face").
As far as Roku is concerned, who exactly knows, except they are a STREAMING company, and MPEG-4 streams up to 60% faster. They had no problems adopting H.265/HEVC for 4K streaming before anybody else, despite royalties (another up to 60% speed increase, to handle the 25-50 Mbps speeds needed for UHD streaming, where the big problem in the market continues to be the download rate of the average American's Internet connection, but to be fair, vastly improved over a decade ago)...