LONDON — 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 – or all three.
Let's step back, clear our head and really think. What are the benefits of allowing almost every little new/different method/solution/scheme to be patented in the 1st place.
Patented wireless material often goes into Standards. Only a handful of big companies can afford to patent every chance they get and it has the chain reaction effect (i.e. patent over patent, patent after patent), hence the LTE patent battle in session right now.
Standardization plus patenting ideas that are not fundamental for other ideas to build on is totally a closed group effort. This is limiting participation from non-WG folks from developed and developing countries. This stifles innovations from a broader audience, hamper collective collaboration (i.e. working together, peer reviews, revise and refine) and monopolies opportunities in driving the technology forward let alone slowing down progress.
The "Open Source" philosophy has recently been applied to designs and architectures involving Standards -- the Open Design and Architecture Initiative (ODAI).
Check it out www.odaiworld.org.
Yes, KB3001 is quite right. Shrewd start-ups can definitely benefit from the patent system. The "horror stories" occur when a small company simply ignores, or under-resources, its intellectual property efforts.
Yes, it is a barrier to entry but the shrewd start-ups can also play the game to get a foothold into the system if they choose carefully what to patent, as CamilleK said. If they do not have the resources to do it, they can always sell their IP on to one of the big boys who know a good patent when they see it. That said the price would certainly be very low. The market will decide anyway...
From a consumer point of view, this pooling is a good thing. I hope it's not going to take too long though, because every technology, no matter how great, has a limited window of opportunity.
I tend to agree it is a barrier to entry for small players. However, the cross licensing net effect helps in neutralizing or inoculating claims from competitors and it helps reduce legal costs. Navigating through standard committees and choosing what to patent and when are good tasks to master for startups.
I was wondering what is the impact of these patent pooling organizations on the overall litigation & innovation in the industry. For individual companies, who are members of one of such organization, the litigation cost will be minimal because of their backup. On the other hand, they would have to pay a licensing fee/royalty for the number of patents they would want to use after trading in their own patents.
But for a new startup, these costs will be prohibitive, as they dont have any existing patents to trade in. And without being member, it would be difficult to new company to avoid litigation. So I feel this pooling organizations are just a "barrier to entry" mechanisms put up by existing companies to prevent startups attacking them. Any thoughts?
Recently TechIPm LLC researched LTE patent portfolios for US market leader among LTE UE (cellular phones, smart phones, PDAs, mobile PCs, etc.) and base station (eNB) product manufactures. Total of 1250 LTE patents, issued and published applications in the US as of May 31 2010, are analyzed to find essential patent candidates for LTE RAN (Radio Access Network) standards. To evaluate the essentiality of a LTE patent, patent disclosures in claim and detail description for each LTE patent are compared to the final versions of the 3GPP Release 8 technical specifications. Total of 72 patents are identified as the potential candidates for LTE baseband modem essential IPR and total of 62 patents are identified as the potential candidates for LTE protocol SW essential IPR.
Among the total of 134 identified patents as the potential candidates for LTE RAN essential IP only 7 candidates are the issued patents. As the prosecution for the published applications is an ongoing process, it is necessary to watch for a possible IP landscape change. A complete LTE RAN essential IP landscape is expected in two to three years as the current prosecution process for the published and unpublished pending patent applications are finished for a complete set of issued patent data pool.
Companies have their goals to drive the technology. The rolling out of 4G seems distant because of the patents. Join venture could help relieving the issue. Will 4G venders work with different Teleco to drive their technology, ending up with variety breeds of 4G?
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.