Craig Thompson is the General Manager and COO for Unified Consulting. He has decades of experience in the IP field focused on strategy, patent and technology licensing, and IP-driven acquisitions. Craig co-founded TnT IP, LLC, a global IP consulting partnership, and headed up the IP Group at Alcatel Lucent and Bell Labs and was on the Senior Leadership Team of Nokia’s Mobile Phones Group with responsibility for the Group’s IP and legal matters. Craig started his legal career as an associate and later as a partner with Finland’s largest law firm Roschier where he practiced IP, technology, energy, data protection, competition, communications, and M&A law for 10 years. Craig is a law graduate of the University of Helsinki (Masters of Law, 1994) and of the Columbia University Law School (LLM, 1997).
In Part I of this two-part article, we provided an analysis of the Wi-Fi 6 litigation and technology landscape. This Part II discusses important changes to the IEEE rules governing the reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) licensing encumbrances on SEPs held by participants in IEEE standardization work. Unfortunately, these rule changes fall short of clarifying what RAND means for Wi-Fi licensors and implementers. Instead, fueled by Wi-Fi 6’s growing valuation and adoption of heavily patented core technologies from LTE and 5G, the rule changes arguably will only heat up the current litigation trend.
Wi-Fi 6 shares new technologies with LTE and 5G that are subject to heavy patenting. The firms and institutions that currently monetize their standard essential patents (SEPs) against LTE and 5G will likely be looking to increase their royalty income from Wi-Fi 6 and 6e. This could mean that the recent disputes over LTE and 5G standardization participants’ fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) SEP licensing commitments will spill over into Wi-Fi. Current Wi-Fi litigation trends suggest that this is already afoot, and the recent licensor-friendly changes in the IEEE IPR rules are feared to only fuel this trend.
he Versatile Video Coding standard (VVC), finalized in 2020, is now entering a fragmented, multi-codec market. However, VVC’s adoption is uncertain in the face of competitive video solutions that are subject to lower or no royalties. VVC owes thanks for this to the excessive royalties and licensing uncertainties that continue to plague VVC’s predecessor, HEVC. Over the past five years, the formation of multiple pools for HEVC has led to licensing inefficiencies and royalty stacking that have hampered HEVC’s adoption. This has prompted the video industry to develop competitive, lower cost solutions, such as the Alliance for Open Media’s Advance Video 1 codec (AV1) and MPEG’s Essential Video Codec (EVC) and Low Complexity Enhancement Video Coding (LCEVC) standards. These video solutions, together with the already existing AVC and HEVC standards, provide a lot of choices to device manufacturers, streaming platforms, and content owners. VVC’s chances of success are further weakened by the dramatic decreases in broadband download, shown below, and video storage costs, which negate any gains in compression efficiency generated by VVC for most uses.
Changes in the 5G radio access network (RAN) – and in particular network disaggregation – could make the monetization of patents essential to RAN equipment and operations (5G RAN SEPs) more challenging. Some of the challenges arise from identifying directly liable infringers in a disaggregated, multi-component system. These challenges are the subject of the second part of this three-part article. This final part of the three-part series addresses other challenges to the monetization of 5G RAN SEPs such as the implementation of parts of the 5G RAN using open source software, patent exhaustion, and vendor indemnifications.
Changes in the 5G radio access network (RAN) are likely to increase interest in monetizing patents essential to RAN equipment and operations (RAN SEPs). One of these changes is the significant increase in the volumes of equipment like radio units (RUs) expected over the next decade. For example, China alone plans to deploy 6 million 5G cells by 2027, at an average cell spend of $28,500. Other changes likely to spur 5G RAN licensing are the increase of new entrants to the RAN equipment market and the use of open source software and off-the-shelf hardware in new RAN deployments. These latter changes are driven by the new Open RAN model promoted by operators seeking to break vendor lock in and foster equipment democratization and price competition. These changes naturally could pose a threat to the traditional RAN equipment businesses
Much has been said about how 5G will better use the airwaves, giving wings to new communications between people and between devices. Little has been said though about how 5G could change markets and industries. The equipment market for the radio access network (RAN) is a good example of just one market that is now caught in the updraft of such change. Another market bound to rise is the market for patent licensing—and, in particular, standard essential patent licensing for 5G RAN. To help make sense of the 5G patent licensing market, we have developed an AI-based 5G landscaping tool to help identify and weigh the relative patent portfolios (OPAL) and an indexed repository of all technical contributions made to 3GPP 2G-5G standardization work (OPEN).