Concepts familiar from grade-school algebra have broad ramifications in computer science.
Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. of Seoul, Korea, has signed a non-exclusive licensing agreement with the Technology Licensing Office (TLO) for 17 patents that cover various aspects of advanced television products, including digital television sets, cable and satellite video receivers, video recorders and video cameras.
The TLO has offered the same license arrangement to more than 60 other firms. Many of these firms have expressed interest and are expected to execute agreements before they begin shipping digital TV products in 1998. Many broadcasters are expected to begin transmitting digital TV signals in selected major markets next summer. The broadcast industry is scheduled to discontinue transmission of current analog TV signals by 2006.
"We're prepared to license these patents, on a non-exclusive basis, to any and all manufacturers," said Jack Turner, assistant director of the TLO.
The MIT standard license agreement sets forth terms and conditions related to standard-definition digital television consumer products, high-definition digital television consumer products, and commercial products. These terms include an initial license issue fee, an annual fee creditable to product royalties, and a per-product royalty ranging from $1 to $1.50 for many consumer products, to more than $100 for some professional broadcast studio equipment. MIT's standard license agreement can be found in its entirety on the TLO web page at <http://web.mit.edu/tlo/www>.
The MIT patents were developed at the Advanced Television and Signal Processing group in the Research Laboratory of Electronics, directed by Professor Jae Lim of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. These patents cover many inventions related to digital TV. Of particular significance are those patented inventions that cover aspects of some key elements of the digital television standard adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), chartered by the FCC Advisory Committee to document the digital TV standard, has not undertaken the task of determining which firms have the intellectual properties required to implement the digital TV standard. Nontheless, the ATSC has included Mr. Turner among the persons whom manufacturers may wish to contact regarding patent issues for digital TV products.
MIT is a member of the Grand Alliance, a consortium of seven institutions formed in 1993 to recommend a digital television standard to the FCC. MIT was the only university involved in this process. A system developed by MIT in conjunction with General Instrument Corp. was chosen as one of four finalists by the FCC. The Grand Alliance digital TV system that served as the basis for the US standard was designed by combining the best features of the four finalist systems.
Digital television offers greatly im-proved image quality by overcoming the degradation that analog signals suffer as a result of transmission-path anomalies and interference. Moreover, high-definition digital images have greater clarity than conventional television images because they can provide five times as many picture elements. As a result, a viewer can sit as close as six feet from a two-foot-high screen and not see the horizontal lines so evident in today's television images. Through this improved resolution, in combination with CD-quality multichannel audio, large-screen high-definition TV sets offer dramatically improved realism.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 19, 1997.