Patent Disclosed for 3-Format DVD Disc

It was disclosed this week that a patent application has been filed for a single DVD disc that could accommodate the non-compatible Blu-ray and HD DVD formats, as well as standard DVD, although it's not clear yet whether the disc will ever be manufactured in large quantities. (U.S. patents often are filed years in advanced of a product's production, and many patent filings result in no products at all.)

Yet, if such a technical solution eventually comes to market, it appears to be one relatively simple way to solve the current dilemma faced by Hollywood and consumers--the seemingly unproductive format war with no obvious winner in sight but with backers of both systems losing out if consumers remain confused and frustrated.

The patent application, first reported this week by the New Scientist Web site, was filed last winter by two engineers and a third employee at Warner Brothers. According to the patent application, the "multilayer dual optical disk" would have a single data layer in the standard DVD, and second and third layers for the two HD formats.

According to a Reuters news item, inventors contend that by using reflective films, their new disc would enable lasers to read the top layer and "see through" to the lower one, if and when necessary. (Blu-ray and HD DVD use different disc depths to store content.) Additional data, the patent filers said, could be stored on the other side.

If the patent's promise is fulfilled in the marketplace, it would still require consumers to choose between Blu-ray and HD DVD players. If one format eventually wins out over the other, then any 3-format disc would seem to be far less useful.

Wayne M. Smith, Alan Bell and Lewis S. Ostrover, who work for Warner Brothers, filed the patent application. (Their corporate affiliations were not noted with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in their filing of December 2005, and published in August 2006.)

Warner Brothers is also on the verge of marketing an upcoming film on the same release day in all three formats, but apparently using three separate discs in one package, ("The Lake House" on Sept. 26).