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H.264 is protected by patents owned by various parties.A license covering most (but not all) patents essential to H.264 is administered by patent pool MPEG LA.In the first project to extend the original standard, the JVT then developed what was called the Fidelity Range Extensions (FRExt).These extensions enabled higher quality video coding by supporting increased sample bit depth precision and higher-resolution color information, including sampling structures known as Y'Cb Cr 4:2:2 (=YUV 4:2:2) and Y'Cb Cr 4:4:4.The H.264 name follows the ITU-T naming convention, where the standard is a member of the H.26x line of VCEG video coding standards; the MPEG-4 AVC name relates to the naming convention in ISO/IEC MPEG, where the standard is part 10 of ISO/IEC 14496, which is the suite of standards known as MPEG-4.The standard was developed jointly in a partnership of VCEG and MPEG, after earlier development work in the ITU-T as a VCEG project called H.26L.(Such partnership and multiple naming is not uncommon.

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A specific decoder decodes at least one, but not necessarily all profiles.

The ITU-T H.264 standard and the ISO/IEC MPEG-4 AVC standard (formally, ISO/IEC 14496-10 – MPEG-4 Part 10, Advanced Video Coding) are jointly maintained so that they have identical technical content.

The final drafting work on the first version of the standard was completed in May 2003, and various extensions of its capabilities have been added in subsequent editions. H.265 and MPEG-H Part 2 is a successor to H.264/MPEG-4 AVC developed by the same organizations, while earlier standards are still in common use.

Further recent extensions of the standard then included adding five other new profiles intended primarily for professional applications, adding extended-gamut color space support, defining additional aspect ratio indicators, defining two additional types of "supplemental enhancement information" (post-filter hint and tone mapping), and deprecating one of the prior FRExt profiles indicated should have been designed differently.

The next major feature added to the standard was Scalable Video Coding (SVC).

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