A Question For Mr. Gruber (or whoever)

John Gruber today posted a reprise of his article A Wee Bit More on AAC, Ogg, and MP3 that raises an interesting point about the lack of support for Ogg Vorbis in Apple products.

To summarize real fast, his point is that Ogg Vorbis exists in a murky realm of likely nasty patent suits, since there’s a non zero chance that the patent holders on mp3 can cite infringment. Okay, I accept that as a fact. But what then of dear old mp3 itself? That type is used largely without any sort of licensing, so what’s to keep it from birthing a lawsuit as well? Did Apple license mp3 for the iPod and iPhone? Because if they didn’t, there’s risk in using that format as well.

Obviously they had to support it—mp3 is far too widespread to be an unsupported filetype in any commercial endeavor. But there’s no real mention of that very real (though admittedly probably unlikely) possibilty that the patent holders for mp3 will decide they want money for the use of their format. **** (Added 8/12/08: Okay, apparently my info was way out of date and mp3s are licensed. Let that be a lesson to me.)

Lest people think I’m baiting here, let me explain: I’m legitimately asking if there’s more going on here than I realize, or if is just a case that the risk was worth it for mp3s but not for Ogg Vorbis. And further, I don’t really think the lack of Ogg support is that important—while I use Ubuntu as my default OS, my default CD ripping output is mp3. I’m no zealot. Just a curious guy with a blog.

So then: responses? Flames? Misinterpretations (valid and otherwise) of what I’m asking? The comments are all yours, folks.