Why LTE Patent Pools Are Sunk


[qi:gigaom_icon_4G] Qualcomm (s qcom) holds about a quarter of the patents required to make the Long Term Evolution wireless standard happen on mobile devices and networks, according to an ABI Research report published earlier this week. Other big holders include Interdigital, with 18 percent; Huawei, with 10 percent; Nokia (s nok) and LG, with 9 percent each; and Samsung, with 7 percent. Which basically means Qualcomm may not be the patent shark that it could be with the CDMA 3G standard, but it’s still going to make some serious money with LTE. In fact, Len Lauer, COO of Qualcomm, confirmed that the company’s royalty rate for LTE would be about 1 percent lower than the royalty it charges for 3G.

So Qualcomm’s sitting pretty with regard to 4G (this includes WiMAX, thanks to its 2005 Flarion buy). However, at least three different entities are attempting to get companies and people to create an LTE patent pool. I’ve covered efforts by Via Licensing, which operates the Near Field Communications patent pool, and MPEG LA, which controls the patents for MPEG-2 video codec. There’s also an attempt to pool patents by Sisvel, unveiled Monday. I’ve been skeptical of these from the beginning, however. As I noted in my Via story:

Via can’t force patent holders to play, and without a majority of solid patents with which to negotiate, its attempts will fail. There’s little reason for a larger company to join a patent pool, unless it wants to help push through a standard, which isn’t the case with LTE (for the skinny on patent pools, check out this article I wrote back in 2007).

Now that we know the leverage Qualcomm has — and the fact that Qualcomm doesn’t swim in patent pools (it has a dedicated staff to handle licensing and as such, no need to do so) — I’m pretty confident that these myriad efforts to get an LTE patent pool going are already sunk.



There is also little Wi-LAN that claims the patent on OFDM… the basic technology for LTE, WIMAX, Wi-Fi, etc..

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