Tuesday, January 18, 2011

LTE Patent Licensing: Pool v. Bilateral

LTE patent portfolios are researched for US market leader among LTE RAN (Radio Access Network) product (cellular phones, smart phones, PDAs, mobile PCs, base station equipments) manufactures to find out Qualcomm’s and InterDigital's licensing power for LTE essential patents. To find the key IPR holders for the LTE patents, a keyword search of the USPTO patent data base has been performed. For completeness, patent data in the lists of patents declared essential to 3GPP LTE appear at the ETSI IPR Online website is also included.

Total of 1327 LTE patents, issued and published applications in the US as of December 31, 2010, are analyzed to find essential patent candidates for LTE RAN standards. 3GPP standard specifications for LTE baseband modem are consist of three core parts: OFDM/MIMO Processor (TS36.211), Channel Coder (TS36.212), and Control SW (TS36.213). 3GPP standard specifications for LTE radio protocol SW are consist of four core parts: MAC (TS36.321), RLC (TS36.322), PDCP (TS36.323), and RRC (TS36.331). 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 152 patents (15 issued patents and 137 published applications) are identified as the potential candidates for LTE RAN essential patent.

The LTE IPR shareholders for essential patent candidates are Ericsson, ETRI, Freescale, Huawei, InterDigital, LG, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Nortel, NSN, Qualcomm, RIM, Samsung, and TI. Among 15 LTE essential patent candidate shareholders, Ericsson, InterDigital, and Qualcomm expressly stated their interest in bilateral licensing for LTE essential patents. The bilateral licensing proponents' IPR share is 38% of the identified potential candidates.

To evaluate the licensing power of the bilateral licensing proponents, The identified essential patent candidates are classified by the key technology components for an implementation of the LTE RAN products: OFDM/OFDMA (Frame & Slot Structure, Modulation), SC-FDMA (PUSCH, PUCCH), Channel Estimation (UL RS, DL RS, CQI), Cell Search & Connection (PRACH, DL SS), MIMO (Transmit Diversity, Spatial Multiplexing), Resource Management (Resource Allocation, Scheduling), Coding (Convolution, Turbo), Power Control, HARQ, Random Access, Channel Prioritization, Scheduling (Dynamic, SPS), Protocol Format (PDUs, SDUs), Radio Link Control (ARQ), PDCP Process (SRB, DRB, ROHC), Security (Ciphering, Integrity), System Information, Connection Control, and Mobility (Handover, Inter-RAT, Measurements).

The bilateral licensing proponents’ LTE RAN essential patent portfolio shows the licensing competitiveness over others only in power control. The analysis shows a possibility of forming the LTE patent pool without the bilateral licensing proponents.

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