MPEG LA, the company that offers licenses for patents related to key audio-visual technologies, has begun building a license for the Blu-ray Disc format.

Blu-ray Disc is one of two competing optical disc formats vying to replace DVD for high-definition content. The first HD-DVD players are due on the market later this year while Blu-ray Disc players are not expected to be available until sometime in 2006.

Blu-ray Disc counts a number of major electronics companies as key backers of the format, including Sony, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. (Panasonic), Samsung Electronics, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, LG Electronics, Mitsubishi, Philips Electronics, Pioneer, Sharp, TDK and Thomson Multimedia,

Any license to make Blu-ray Disc-compatible products is likely to involve patents owned by some or all of these companies and licensing them separately would be a time-consuming process. Companies like MPEG LA attempt to streamline that process by offering bundles of patents and acting as a one-stop shop.

MPEG LA has just issued a request for companies who feel they own patents that are essential to Blu-ray Disc to make their claims, said Larry Horn, a spokesman for the group. MPEG LA hopes to gather relevant parties together sometime in February to discuss collective licensing, he said.

"We're trying to make as big a patent pool as possible," he said Tuesday.

MPEG LA is already licensing groups of patents associated with MPEG2, MPEG4, AVC/H.264, IEEE1394 and DVB-T.