As patent lawsuits continue to shake up the mobile electronics world, a group of companies have agreed to pool their long-term evolution (LTE) patents, according to The Wall Street Journal. Ten mobile carrier and electronics companies will form the patent pool with the hope of both fostering collective-licensing agreements and creating a formidable patent shield to protect the companies from future lawsuits related to the high-speed cellular technology.
Via Licensing, a subsidiary of Dolby Laboratories, will oversee the formation of the patent pool. Companies with interest in LTE patents from around the world will contribute their existing patents and sign licensing agreements, including AT&T, HP, Clearwire, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, KDDI, NTT DoCoMo, SK Telecom, ZTE, and DTVG.
The patents contributed to the LTE pool by the participating companies are “standard essential,” meaning that they are required by regulatory authorities to be licensed to other companies on a “fair, reasonable, and non-disriminatory,” or FRAND, basis.
A benefit to the participating companies is that, by pooling their patents, the administrators of the patent pool will ensure that all patents are licensed according to the FRAND standards, eliminating the need for each company to negotiate and license its patents to others. “One of the things that we do is give [the participating companies] a conduit to ensure that we are meeting their [FRAND] obligations,” Roger Ross, President of Via Licensing, told The Wall Street Journal.
Despite the impressive list of contributing companies, several of the largest and most litigious electronics firms are notably absent from Via’s arrangement, including Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm, Nokia, and Google.
The conspicuous absence of these companies leads some industry analysts to doubt whether the patent pool will have a noticeable effect on preventing future patent litigation.
Via claims, however, that additional companies will eventually see the benefits of the patent pool and join in the future. “We really expect to see additional companies coming on in the very near term,” Mr. Ross said.
Not everyone expressed the same optimism as Mr. Ross, however: “It’s hard to see how you amass most of the players such that the pool becomes interesting enough,” Yar Chaikovsky, a patent attorney with the firm McDermott Will & Emery, said. “I’m pessimistic in general.”
John Amster, CEO of intellectual property service RPX, shared Mr. Chaikovsky’s doubts. “Historically patent pools have been a very efficient way of organizing the patent license requirements around emerging technologies, but only the ones in which all the key players participate at launch have been successful,” Mr. Amster explained.
Apple and Samsung, both currently absent from the patent licensing pool, are still locked in heated litigation around the world, with Samsung now targeting the recently released iPhone 5 in a new patent infringement lawsuit. Notably, Samsung’s lawsuit does not make infringement claims on LTE technology, something that the Korean company threatened it would do after its devastating patent infringement loss in California earlier this year.