WASHINGTON (AP) - Looking to
technology that appears destined to replace VCRs and compact
discs, the Justice Department gave the go-ahead Thursday for six
manufacturers jointly to license patents so other companies can
produce digital video discs and players.
Under an arrangement approved by
the Justice Department's antitrust division, companies that make
DVD-Video and DVD-ROM discs and players can use the technology
owned by the six manufacturers.
Pooling the patents held by the
six businesses will reduce costs for obtaining the technology,
while raising little possibility of competitive harm, said Joel I.
Klein, assistant attorney general in charge of the department's
antitrust division, in a letter.
A DVD - which is the same size as
a CD but with seven times the capacity - can hold a two-hour
feature film. Nintendo's next-generation video game player will
have DVD technology, as will Sony Corp.'s next-generation
Playstation video game system.
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.
Ltd. - one of the six companies - will make DVD drives for
Nintendo. Matsushita is the world's largest maker of consumer
electronics with brands such as Panasonic and Quasar.
Toshiba Corp. will offer licenses
on behalf of Hitachi Ltd., Matsushita, Time Warner Inc., and
Victor Co. of Japan Ltd.
The six companies plus four others
established specifications for players to read the discs and
convert them into images for screen display.
It is the second request for the
Justice Department to approve a DVD-Video and DVD-ROM patent pool.
Last December, the department
approved the pool formed by Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.,
Sony Corp. of Japan and Pioneer Electronic Corp. of Japan.
Sony is moving to DVDs for its
next-generation of video games.
Under Justice Department
procedures, organizations submit proposals to the antitrust
division headed by Klein and receive a statement on whether the
government will challenge the action.