LONDON ó Three patent pool administration organizations are each trying to garner support from essential patent holders for the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard for fourth generation of mobile and broadband communications. However, the fact that all three groups are in play and that some companies have said they intend to act independently could create an expensive licensing environment that could hurt the roll out of LTE.
Sisvel Spa (Turin, Italy) began working with the companies creating the LTE standard in 2008 and responded to a request for information (RFI) from the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance issued in August 2009. Sisvel, originally formed in 1982 to extract the value from Italian television patents, also has experience in telecommunications. It announced a patent pool for the CDMA2000 3G standard, in June 2009. The NGMN Alliance is a group of about 60 network operators, technology vendors and research institutes and its RFI on LTE patent pooling was focused on an October 2009 deadline.
"Nine months on and there hasn't been a decision made," said Sean Corey, intellectual property counsel with Sisvel. Corey said that lack of a decision meant the overall situation "is still pretty uncertain," but he said he remains confident that Sisvel is in the lead in terms of putting together a critucal mass of patent holders.
Sisvel claims it is engaged with 32 companies holding LTE/SAE (service architecture evolution) patents, as it works toward forming the LTE/SAE patent pool. These companies represent over 60 percent of the essential LTE/SAE patents, based on declarations of essentiality to standardization bodies such as ETSI and TTA, Corey said. Corey would not name any of the 32 companies Sisvel is negotiating with at this time but Sisvel states that participants include device vendors, network equipment providers, and operators, consumer electronics and integrated circuit manufacturers, as well as research institutes, from China, Japan, Korea, Europe, and North America.
Back in April 2008 a number of patent holders said they would support an LTE/SAE patent pool. The companies included Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, NEC, NextWave Wireless, Nokia, Nokia Siemens Networks and Sony Ericsson, but not Qualcomm.
Meanwhile MPEG LA LLC (Denver, Colo.) and Via Licensing Corp. (San Francisco, Calif.) are also trying to put patent pools together. It is not clear whether that core group of holders is talking to any one of the three patent pool administrators Ė or all three.