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LTE is changing the landscape of IPR wealth

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The emergence of LTE is causing a major reshuffle in the distribution of IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) wealth, according to new research from Informa Telecoms & Media. While the 2G, 3G, and 3.5G IPR landscape was dominated by Qualcomm, Nokia, and Ericsson, the arrival of LTE is seeing the emergence of new players such as Samsung, LG and Huawei, who have dramatically improved their patent portfolio for LTE compared to previous technologies.

"Using data from the ETSI, USPTO, and EPO databases, we analysed the distribution of LTE patent wealth by company and by region" said Malik Kamal Saadi, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. "While Interdigital and Qualcomm are clear leaders in the global LTE patents portfolio with 21% and 19% market shares respectively of the total number of patents, Huawei comes in third position with 9%, Samsung in fourth with 8%, and Nokia, LG, and Ericsson in joint fifth place, each with 7% market share," Kamal Saadi adds.

Although the number of patents gives an indication of how different players are positioned in the LTE market, the value of each patent varies according to its overall value to LTE. An "essential" LTE patent, for example, is a key invention or process required for implementing and practising the LTE standard as defined by 3GPP.

"It's clear that Samsung, LG and Huawei who traditionally had a weak IPR portfolio in 3G and 3.5G wireless technologies, are becoming increasingly aggressive in the LTE landscape not only by acquiring an increased number of LTE patents but also by making these patents essential. This will enable them to better trade against the incumbent IPR holders and lower the cost related to licensing wireless technologies," Kamal Saadi adds.

Until now only a third of current global LTE patents could be described as essential but about 60% of them are recognised as having the potential to become essential in the future. Whether or not a patent is viewed as being essential could also vary from one market to another. For example, from the 182 LTE patents contributed by Huawei, 178 are registered in China and only a handful of these could currently be described as essential. This means that Huawei's IPR wealth will be effective in China but to a certain extent less effective in the rest of the world unless Huawei validates its patents with other recognised trademark and patent offices such as the European EPO or the American USPTO.

On the other hand, Informa Telecoms and Media believes that more than 60% of LTE patents from likes of Qualcomm and Nokia, 50% of LG's portfolio, 40% of Samsung's patents, and less than 33% of Ericsson's portfolio could be described as essential LTE patents so far.

"Overall there is no doubt that a more widely distributed LTE IPR wealth is likely to help the whole industry, as it will reduce costs related to technology licensing and royalty fees," concludes Kamal Saadi.

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Tags: lte  samsung  lg  huawei  qualcomm  nokia,  ericsson  wireless  patent