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DisplayPort-To-HDMI Cables May Be Recalled Over Licensing 417

Hugh Pickens writes "PC Magazine reports that the licensing company overseeing the HDMI specification has confirmed that existing Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapters which are designed by several cable makers and sold by several PC OEMs, are apparently illegal and could be recalled. According to Charlene Wan, director of marketing for HDMI LLC, any cable that does not include HDMI connectors on both ends violates the specification. 'The HDMI specification defines an HDMI cable as having ONLY HDMI connectors on the ends,' says Wan. 'Anything else is not a licensed use of the specification and therefore, not allowed.' That apparently includes Apple's mini-DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapters, which are sold by Belkin on Apple's Web site. However a representative for Belkin denies that the cable it sells on Apple's Web site is illegal. 'Essentially, the product you mention in your post is not out of compliance because it is just an adaptor and not a cable,' the representative wrote in an email. 'We do not sell a cable with a male Mini-DP and male HDMI port, which is what falls out of compliance with the spec. HDMI does recognize a product that has a Mini-DP connector and HDMI receptacle with an internal active circuitry as it falls into the definition of a source device.' There may also be a glimmer of hope, in that HDMI Org understands that there is a need for this type of cable: 'We do recognise that there may be a market need for a cable solution rather than a dongle solution. However, at this time, there is no way to produce these cable products in a licensed manner.'"
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DisplayPort-To-HDMI Cables May Be Recalled Over Licensing

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  • by Denis Lemire ( 27713 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @07:56PM (#36715498) Homepage

    Nothing irks me more than technology being crippled for no good reason. Yay for lawyers and IP nonsense!

    • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @07:59PM (#36715516)

      It works both ways. Phillips refuses to allow the use of the CD logo on DRMed CDs because it violates the standard and isn't necessarily compatible with all CD players out there. In this case, I'm not sure what the solution is, but considering that it's purpose is to convert between the two types of ports, I'm not sure how much can be done about the problem.

      • by max ( 79752 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @08:06PM (#36715570) Homepage

        I don't understand what you mean with "both ways". Phillips is not crippling technology with their stance on the CD, in fact, they are doing the opposite by telling manufacturers that DRM is not a part of the CD-specification and might prevent consumers from playing those discs. Thus they are not allowed to be called CDs. The DRM is the crippling part, not the fact that the manufacturers that insist on having DRM on their discs can't call them CDs.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The HDMI specification requires both ends to be HDMI Anything else is against spec.
          The CD specification required 16 bit PCA, anything else is against spec.

          HDMI LLC is asking for Belkin to withdraw products that break their spec.
          Phillips asked the same.

          The only real difference I can see is that the HDMI spec was brain-dead in this instance while the CD specification was not.

          • by max ( 79752 )

            Yes, and the OP wrote "[...]technology being crippled for no good reason" and "[...]IP nonsense!".

            No one is questioning whether or not anything is against the spec, what was questioned is why you cripple technology (through a spec or otherwise) without a good reason, and as of yet no good reason has been produced. Thus: IP nonsense. I don't think anyone is questioning Phillips move as anything other than "good reason" (with the possible exception of the DRM advocates).

            If HDMI LLC can give some good reason,

            • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

              by Thing 1 ( 178996 )
              Exactly. I have a DVI-to-HDMI cable that is powering one of my monitors. "My cold dead hands" comes to mind (although, they'd still be slightly warm immediately after they killed me; there's no reason for them to wait to remove "their" property until after my hands have cooled... Perhaps more appropriately "my cooling dead hands" -- but then, Charlton Heston's wording has a certain ring to it).
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by grumbel ( 592662 )

              No one is questioning whether or not anything is against the spec, what was questioned is why you cripple technology (through a spec or otherwise) without a good reason,

              It's not completely without good reason, it is for example quite nice that I can simply plug any cheap HDMI cabel into a PS3 or Xbox360 instead of having to get a special PS3/Xbox360-HDMI cable with a proprietary multi-format plug at the other end. Other standards like USB also have also seen quite few non-standard plugs over the years, maybe that's something they wanted to avoid. That of course doesn't make their reaction in this case any better, the general idea however that a HDMI device should have a HD

              • by donaldm ( 919619 ) on Monday July 11, 2011 @02:32AM (#36717602)
                There are five HDMI types altogether (ie. A through E). In the majority of cases most people would only see the type A connector which is 19 pins, however what can be confusing are the specs which are 1 to 1.2a, 1.3 to 1.3c and 1.4 and 1.4a. Basically if you have a 1.0 to 1.2a spec you are ok on 720p but you may have trouble with 1080p. With the 1.3a on spec you should be fine with 1080p and even 1080p 3D (The first Playstation 3 had a 1.3a spec HDMI connector and works fine with 1080p 3D TV's).

                The 1.4 spec has exactly the same basic spec as 1.3a to 1.3c but supports ethernet and 4k by 2k screen resolution (If these exist they won;t be cheap).

                A simple guide to choosing HDMI cables for just about all HD TV's (includes 3D) is, if you have a 1.3a and above spec you should be ok although I would limit your cable length to between 1 and 3 meters. Most new HDMI cables are normally labelled as "HDMI high speed" (1.3a to 1.3c spec) or "HDMI high speed with ethernet" (1.4 and 1.4a spec). Paying more than $10 to $25 (US or Australian) for a 2 meter HDMI cable is wasting money because you won't see any difference in performance.
          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 10, 2011 @08:41PM (#36715802)
            Philips is not telling anyone they can't sell their CD-like product. They just can't call them CDs. The HDMI group is actually saying the products can't be sold. That's a huge difference.
          • Phillips didn't ask to withdraw drm cds. You just can't use the CD logo. So you can you sell an HDMI->whatever cable and just not use the HDMI logo?
        • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @08:12PM (#36715614)

          I think he's saying that the "lawyers and IP nonsense" cut both ways. They can be used to cripple technology, or protect it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's one thing to use the CD logo on DRMed CDs. It's another to make a cable to plug into a type of port. Worst case, they remove the HDMI logos on the cable/adapter. There should be absolutely NO legal basis for banning pure technical interoperability.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Hear, hear! And there's no legal basis for Apple restricting other companies from making power cords compatible with their equipment.
          Oops, sorry, I forgot rules don't apply to the company that makes all your shiny.

        • I'm sure some part of the HDMI specification is covered by patents, and would therefore need to be licensed. It's not just the trademarks on the name and logos.

      • But they aren't preventing people from making the discs. That's the issue here.

      • by jrumney ( 197329 )
        Philips didn't threaten to sue anyone producing 10cm polycarbonate disks with aluminium coating containing digitally encoded information in a format mostly compatible with the CD Red Book format. They only stopped them using the "Compact Disk Digital Audio" trademark.
    • I say arrest those cable pirates stealing HDMI connectors without paying for them.

    • Nothing irks me more than technology being crippled for no good reason. Yay for lawyers and IP nonsense!

      As annoying as that is, at least I understand the commercial desire to maximize profit.

      Nothing irks me more than our freedoms being crippled for no good reason. Yay for legislators and political nonsense!

      ... or is my statement redundant?
    • Just hurry up and write the spec to license this device, then license it ASAP! It will immediately become a revenue source. Duh!

    • How fitting this is posted the same day as the post about MBAs being the scourge of industry. None of these disciplines have any engineering knowledge, yet they are vested with the authority to build business models around technology. And so, this sort of thing becomes a great way of doing business - not actually making anything or adding value that people will pay for (that whole invisible hand of the market thing).

    • You mean this isn't an example of why patents were created in the first place? So that one party who had nothing to do with the development of a technology could stop another party who had nothing to do with the development of a technology from bringing products to market?

      If Jefferson could have seen what modern corporations would do with Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of his Constitution, he'd have decorated that innovative document with his own brains.

    • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @10:53PM (#36716634) Homepage

      Yay for press releases that refer to things as "illegal" when they mean "our contracts don't like it." Sure, you may get sued. But you're getting sued in civil court for violating your contract with the 3rd party, and you're going to pay whatever recompense the contract specifies. You're not doing something "illegal," as what you're doing is not forbidden by law.

      Contract != law

  • Easy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @08:00PM (#36715520) Journal

    Produce whatever cable you want, and call it HMDI.

    • How about HDVCI (High Definition Video Conversion Interface)?

      'sides, I already have (and use) mine, so screw them. ;)

    • Re:Easy (Score:5, Funny)

      by kinabrew ( 1053930 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @08:25PM (#36715694) Journal

      High Definition Innovative Video Information Interface


    • you joke, but its true! its what the counterfeiters do.

      I wanted to buy some brand-name trimmer pots (electronic parts) once and the well known brand is 'bourns'. what I ended up with was 'burans' and 'bochen' and 'baores':

      http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5124/5230789958_5036809ea9_b.jpg [flickr.com]

      wtf! tell me this was an honest mistake. yeah, right.

      well, make this work FOR them, for a change. ignore the bullshit politics and 'make a mistake on the name' so that its not exactly hdmi. in fact, just say its 'hdmi-lik

    • by cvtan ( 752695 )
      I'll put it right next to my Lorex watch.
  • by max ( 79752 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @08:00PM (#36715526) Homepage

    Who wrote such a narrow-minded license and for what purpose? I would like how they thought this would benefit end-users.

    It smells like greed, incompetence and arrogance.

    • modern standsrds committees are NOT run by users. these are never for your benefit. they are for ease of manufacturing, cheapness, and even de-engineer things so that they wear out sooner (causing you to rebuy things).

      hollywood was more than 50% involved in this, too, btw. no tech committee would add drm on its own. and no one would spend WORK (software, hardware) to mix audio and video when they were not already natively mixed to begin with. but they did, and they mixed them in such a way that its tec

    • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @09:03PM (#36715948)
      One possible answer would be to prevent proprietary connectors. If hardware vendors could make some funky connector that required a custom cable to connect to HDMI, but still call it an HDMI cable, that would undermine the standard.
    • Royaltys (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swb ( 14022 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @11:14PM (#36716744)

      I think the answer lies in the DisplayPort connector -- why do some computers have DisplayPort and not HDMI?

      My sense is that the adapters either undermine connector licensing -- Wikipedia notes that DisplayPort is a royalty free standard -- or somehow threaten copyright controls built into HDMI, or both.

      BluRay has to use HDCP for HD video, which pretty much mandates HDMI, so TV makers have put HDMI on TVs, and from there it became something of a home AV standard. Computer makers didn't need HDCP, so they went with the royalty-free solution, which in turn has been easy to connect to HDMI displays with an adapter. I note on Newegg that there are a number of monitors available with DisplayPort, so it's possible to go all-DP on a computer setup.

      My best guess is that with so many people wanting to plug a laptop (no royalty) into a TV and at least some display makers willing to add DP, the future for HDMI as a standard is perhaps threatened and revenue is certainly decreased by 50% in some future world when only half the devices use your connector.

      And if you think even not that further out, there may be a future where nobody buys a "TV" anymore -- you buy a display with either in-built intelligence to view programming from network(s) or you attach some computing device. If the latter has DisplayPort and this is what most people do, then the TV doesn't need HDMI and the standard withers, much to the chagrin of the people cashing royalty checks, and to the movie studios who want the DRM.

    • by donaldm ( 919619 ) on Monday July 11, 2011 @03:54AM (#36717834)
      The HDMI royalty is $0.04 USD per device and has an annual fee of $10,000 for high-volume manufacturers. The Display port cable is royalty free however it appears that Display port cables are more expensive than the equivalent length HDMI cable by between 20% and 40% (do a price comparison if you don't believe me). Yes I am sure the HDMI consortium are ripping off the public :)
  • by karl.auerbach ( 157250 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @08:01PM (#36715530) Homepage

    What about cables that go from DVI to HDMI?

    • It said that only HDMI connectors were permitted on both ends. I know reading the article is too much to ask, but at least the summary?
    • I have no idea what their precious spec says; but it may help that DVI and HDMI are much more closely related to one another, and that HDMI was drawn up, in its initial iteration as pretty much "Single-link DVI+audio+CEC+HDCP". There have been a number of widely released commercial products(video cards from both Nvidia and ATI) that have run HDMI signals through a DVI connector to make compatibility in either direction easier, and a few oddballs that have(probably with less approval from team HDMI) used the
  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @08:04PM (#36715560)

    and show a pic of the ends without further explanation.

    Computer users "get" cracks, hacks, and routing around stupidity.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 10, 2011 @08:08PM (#36715580)

    The licensing company is in error. These are not Display Port to HDMI cables, they are bananas. One end of the banana was equipped to be able to link up to a High Definition Multimedia Interface, the other end was equipped to link up to Apple's display port. Cabling was run between these two ends and the banana was removed.

    It's still a banana, though.

    You're welcome.

  • in other words... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by v1 ( 525388 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @08:10PM (#36715602) Homepage Journal

    We want you to have to buy a cable AND an adapter, (at the usual 800% markup from cost of materials) so we can collect license fees twice.

    You sure this isn't Sony we're talking about? Reminds me of their "iLink" cables. Apple refused to license them to use the term "firewire" because they insisted on using a proprietary connector because they wanted to be the exclusive source of hyperpriced firewire cables for their camcorders. This whole game has become very tiring.

    The only thing I've heard about this whole thunderbolt mania that I like is that the cables are actually more than just straight through wires with particular connectors on the ends priced like there's actual expensive parts in them - these cables actually have numerous active components at both ends. Still overpriced, but not nearly as much of a ripoff.

    • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )

      [...] these cables actually have numerous active components at both ends. Still overpriced, but not nearly as much of a ripoff.

      Yeah, but: why do these cables have active parts on both ends? Oh yeah, part of the "screw the customer" spec.

      • Yeah, but: why do these cables have active parts on both ends? Oh yeah, part of the "screw the customer" spec.

        It might be out of line, but it might not be, it's really hard to tell given the performance. The cable is capable of handling at least 20Gbps, so it might actually be a necessity. It's the cheapest cable that can handle that kind of signal. The standard is supposedly going to allow 100Gbps in the next decade, a bit rate that may prove intractable in copper without active parts between the connectors. Optical connectors isn't proving to be practical yet, and it sounds like they'll have optical transceiver

  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @08:23PM (#36715676)


    have had them for at least 5 years now.

    a bit slow on the up-take?

    sorry, but you just LOST due to not protecting your bullshit idea well enough. 5 years. pfffft!

    btw, the hdmi 'designers' are the laughing stocks of the industry. if you have an hdmi connector committee member in your employ, you should fire him. he did a really bad job and we can all see that. the connector falls out without any regard, there's no lock, the cable is way too thick and there are more connectors than needed. oh, and mixing audio and video and muxing them in a DRM fashion? you should be hung up and then killed. then shot. just for ruining the dvi protocol (dvi had no DRM before hdmi came along). audio and video could easily have been on separate wires. but that would have been too consumer friendly!

    you bastards. you all suck, you DRM hdmi fuckheads.

    and this latest news just makes you look even sillier.

    • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )
      Your signature explains the recourse.
    • They're not illegal, they likely infringe upon the HDMI trademark and the owner of the trademark is legally obligated to defend it's mark. In this case it's only marginally silly as a lot of people are probably not aware that the cables are not to HDMI spec.

      I'm guessing that Belkin will balk and relabel the cables to make that clear at which point it should be resolved.

  • by gearloos ( 816828 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @08:25PM (#36715700)
    Oh wow, sorry about that, I'll be sure and send my unlicensed cables right back. I wouldn't want to be in any violation. Of couse I'll pay for shipping. It's the Fanbois Manifesto, after all.

    . Sincerely yours,
    The Lawyer
  • So... did I get that right, the whole fuss is about calling it a "HDMI cable" while it fails to meet spec? Give it a different name. The customer won't care as long as it works.

    • So... did I get that right, the whole fuss is about calling it a "HDMI cable" while it fails to meet spec?

      As I understand it, HDMI is not only trademarked but also patented, and the trademarks and patents are licensed as a bundle [wikipedia.org]. So any cable compatible with HDMI conforming equipment that doesn't meet the spec infringes one or more patents.

      • Patents cover creative works. Making a connector to mate another is not creative, it's functional.

        They cannot stop people from making cables, just keep them from calling them HDMI cables.

        They can call them HDMI-compatible cables though.

        If you could stop companies from making compatible cables/connectors then all those unlicensed "iPod compatible" accessories wouldn't exist.

        HDMI patents quite likely would keep you from making HDMI devices, because being active devices they would use other technologies that t

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          Patents cover creative works. Making a connector to mate another is not creative, it's functional.

          Copyrights cover works of authorship. Patents cover new, useful, and non-obvious inventions.

          If you could stop companies from making compatible cables/connectors then all those unlicensed "iPod compatible" accessories wouldn't exist.

          Did you ever see what's been going on with Apple's MagSafe connector?

          • Patents should cover new, useful and non-obvious inventions. That they aren't and that there are a lot of patents for not quite new, not quite useful and very obvious "inventions" (I'll use the term loosely here) is exactly what's wrong with them today.

  • So What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @08:30PM (#36715728) Homepage Journal

    Why would I care that a cable I have that works safely has been recalled due to some conflict between some corporations to whom I owe nothing, now that I bought mine for myself? I'm certainly not going to stop using it, and absolutely not going to go to any trouble to send it back. Indeed, now that it can't be gotten anymore, it's even more valuable to me, given its scarcity. I'd probably sell it to someone else who values it even more than I do, for more than I paid for it new.

    If these lawyers start telling me that I don't own even the physical goods I buy, because of some licensing agreement upstream between parties with whom I never agreed to any ongoing terms, then those lawyers are simply thieves.

    • If these lawyers start telling me that I don't own even the physical goods I buy [...] then those lawyers are simply thieves.

      When you walk into a store and "buy" something, you may be asked to sign a contract stating that this transaction shall be deemed a 95-year rental (for copies of works of authorship) or 20-year rental (for other products) and not a sale.

      • You just described a scene that is better written "you might be asked to sign" than "may". They may not ask me to sign that. Or at least I will not if they ask. Unless it contains no other encumbrances I might ever violate before reselling it at some unknowable future time.

        I don't even sign the licenses on SW and most described IP I've seen for the past decade or two, and I never signed it in the couple of decades before that. I did get a lot of IP my way over those years, though. And I've given a lot more

  • This seems like a good way to make yourself obsolete overnight. Someones got an adapter so their hugely popular device can still use your aging cable spec... but you come along and say NO! You can't use our cable! In a fight over which cable spec to use whome do you think will win? Apple who somehow even got Auto manufactures to include ipod docks on stock cards? Or HDMI LLC who will, most assuredly, not exist in 20 years irrelevant of how this fight turns out?
  • My question is, if these displayport-HDMI cables are not within the HDMI spec, and thus not licit in the eyes of the HDMI people, by what mechanism does that make them illegal?

    Does the HDMI consortium have some sort of patent pool, licensed only to conformant devices(in which case everybody except grey market Chinese cheapies is screwed), or is it merely the HDMI trademark, in which case a bunch of packaging will have to be redone, possibly even some cables with moulded symbols/text ground down or destro
    • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )

      People will still be able to make the same damn cables, albeit with slightly cagier language on the packaging, and your friendly local geek and/or AV salesdude will still know exactly what you need.

      Okay, okay, this has just been a Slashvertisement -- for our skills. :)

    • HDMI has patents, and the big guns: HDCP.

      • They may well have HDMI-specific patents; but HDCP is something that(while obligatory for HDMI-compliant sources and sinks) is available separately from Intel for DVI, HDMI, Displayport, and a couple of others as of HDMI 1.3 and Displayport 1.1, so a setup involving a recent Displayport source would presumably be covered in terms of HDCP. Additionally, ordinary passive cabling doesn't interact with HDCP at all, it just has to deliver the signals more or less unmangled to the sink, so that would only seem to
  • OOI are there any good reasons to still use HDMI/DVI-D rather than DP?

    (Apart from the fact that my U2311H doesn't support HDCP DRM over DP, of course. God knows I want more DRM.)

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      are there any good reasons to still use HDMI/DVI-D rather than DP?

      Because most affordable 37" computer monitors don't have DP inputs.

  • Anyone think of another case where a certain type of cable is illegal? It's just wire going from one place to another; how could it be illegal??! If I make my own cable, is that illegal?
    • by cvtan ( 752695 )
      Sorry grammar Nazis, should be "there", not "their".
    • by brusk ( 135896 )
      Any cable made of a material whose production technique (for example, some new kind of fiber optic glass) is under patent but produced by someone who was not licensed to use that technique would be in the same situation.
  • Don't use HDMI!
    • Don't use HDMI!

      That will be easy when there are no alternatives but SCART on most of the new television sets..

  • by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @08:55PM (#36715888)
    Despite the alarmist headline, if you read the linked article carefully, you'll see that the only type of recall being considered is at the retail level. That is, retailers and distributors will have to remove the product from the shelves. There is no plan under consideration to go after consumers who have already purchased the cables for personal use. So if you already bought, paid for, and are using a cable, you should be okay to continue doing so.
    • It's only not as bad as it sounds if you actually thought that the hdmi cable police were going to beat down your door. For everybody else it's *exactly* as bad as it sounds.

  • We have a standard that says everything has to use the same HDMI connector. Then Apple tries to sleaze around it and introduce their own, incompatible connector. The problem is Apple, not the HDMI consortium. Apple just needs to get with the program.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You are aware that HDMI and Displayport are completely different digital video interfaces? Now, Apple did jump on the 'too cool for displayport' bus and went with their own 'mini displayport'; but Displayport is a completely different interface, with a different spec, drawn up by a different consortium. The only Apple product with an HDMI port is their newer mini, and it's just a boring old HDMI port, they didn't even go with the mini version.
  • From the article:

    According to Charlene Wan, director of marketing for HDMI LLC, any cable that does not include HDMI connectors on both ends violates the specification. "The HDMI specification defines an HDMI cable as having ONLY HDMI connectors on the ends," she wrote via an email interview. "Anything else is not a licensed use of the specification and therefore, not allowed."

    May Charlene Wan and the directors of HDMI LLC be stricken with kidney stones and may those stones take several weeks to pass.


  • What, is someone going to be seriously injured by using these cables? I've understood 'illegal' to mean a violation of criminal law, not just a civil matter like a breach of contract or a trademark violation?

  • by Salvo ( 8037 ) on Sunday July 10, 2011 @11:29PM (#36716834)

    The Cables used to extend USB Cables, which were bundled with hundreds of Consumer Devices were illegal too, according to USB 1.1
    That didn't stop manufacturers like Logitech and Apple including them with Peripherals. (Apple's extension cables were slotted to prevent anything but Apple Keyboards to connect to them)

    The USB-IF amended this clause in later versions once they realized that they couldn't do anything about the thousands of products already on the market that violated the license.
    Hopefully, either HDMI LLC wise up too, or Display manufacturers start including Royalty-free Display Ports on their devices. Display Port supports the xvYYC colourspace and even CEC now, which almost makes HDMI redundant.

  • by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Monday July 11, 2011 @01:17AM (#36717302) Homepage Journal

    but I disagree. This is one of those cases. If the lawyers who were going to try to prohibit the sale of cables were to suddenly find themselves with broken kneecaps, I bet that future lawyers would be hesitant to file in the future.