A 5G patent pool, intended to prevent patent-related lawsuits, is being considered by the NGMN association. The NGMN association represents a wide range of global wireless network operators.
Despite the interest in the creation of the 5G patent pools, a top executive at Vodafone acknowledged that the group’s efforts likely wouldn’t prevent the kinds of lawsuits like Apple’s recent litigation against Qualcomm.
“I wish we had that type of influence, but we don’t,” said Johan Wibergh, group CTO of Vodafone and chairman of the NGMN Alliance. “It is an extremely tricky area, and I don’t think we can prevent them,” he said of patent-infringement lawsuits related to 5G network technology.
The NGMN — which includes members like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom — announced in 2015 that it would look into intellectual property rights around 5G. The group said it would investigate “Standard Essential Patent (SEP) declaration and assessment” and 5G patent pools. Such patent pools have been used in other industries to smooth the patent licensing process, allowing licensees to obtain permission to use a wide range of patents essential to specific technologies.
This week, NGMN announced it had completed a wide range of goals last year, including its research into the IPR arena. The group said it had developed recommendations on “transparency of SEP disclosures and analysis of essentiality assessment and patent pools.” The group announced in 2012 the creation of an LTE patent pool to “improve transparency and predictability of royalty rates.” NGMN partners AT&T, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, SK Telecom and others joined the pool.
Peter Meissner, the NGMN Alliance’s CEO, said the group would look to create a 5G patent pool, but that it would be up to vendors like Qualcomm and Nokia and others to decide whether they would commit to the effort. The notion of a patent pool is noteworthy considering patent-infringement lawsuits continue to disrupt the mobile industry. Most recently, Apple filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Qualcomm partly over patent royalties just days after the dominant chipmaker was sued by the Federal Trade Commission on charges of anticompetitive practices.
Vendors generally have preferred to avoid patent pools in the wireless market and instead license their patents on an individual basis. Several vendors have built significant patent-licensing businesses.