Most of the low-cost players come from factories in China. International trade newsletter TV Digest estimates China produces around 10 million DVD decks a year, mainly for export. European and North American importers then slap on Western brand name labels and sell them for under $100.
The DVD Forum, which sets the technical standards for DVD, lists several dozen factories in China. But only four of the factories have so far taken licences.
As a first step towards policing the patent pool worldwide, Philips has asked European Union Customs Authorities to impound unlicensed DVD-Video/ROM players and DVD-Video/ROM discs under the EU Council Regulation that covers goods that infringe patents.
Although there has been no formal announcement, Philips's legal website warns European importers that if they do not want their stocks stuck in Customs they should ask the factory to show them proof of a licence.
Philips says that even if goods get through customs, the company will act against wholesale and retail traders.
"The trade in unlicensed products may expose your company to liability for patent infringement" warn Philips' lawyers.