Patent pool administrator Via Licensing has announced that China Mobile and Deutsche Telekom, two of the world’s largest telecommunications companies, have joined its LTE patent group.
Via, a subsidiary of Dolby Labs, first formed the pool back in October 12 with ten members: AT&T, Clearwire Corporation, DTVG Licensing, HP, KDDI Corporation, NTT DOCOMO, SK Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, and ZTE Corporation.
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Members, which must themselves hold LTE-related intellectual property, agree to license all of their standard-essential patents to the pool and receive rights to its intellectual property in a single transaction. With the addition of the most recent two companies, Via believes its initiative represents about 15-20% of the available essential LTE patents.
“The wireless industry is known for delivering significant innovation, but it is often affected by costly patent litigation and a lack of predictability surrounding the cost and availability of essential IP,” Deutsche Telekom CTO Bruno Jacobfeuerborn said in a statement. “We are pleased to participate with Via in a collaborative effort to deliver efficient and cost-effective access to LTE standard-essential patents.”
Via Licensing’s endeavor is an important one, as it could help the industry avoid a patent showdown over LTE. The pool has attracted fewer members than originally anticipated, but Via says it is actively recruiting for the group.
As the world’s largest carrier with over 700 million subscribers, China Mobile’s participation is also significant. The carrier has been slower to the third-generation of wireless data, as it went with a proprietary standard for its 3G network. As of January, it had almost 95 million 3G customers, or about 13% penetration.
The Chinese government is making preparations for the jump to LTE, and the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has said it will be ready to begin issuing licenses and allocating frequency by the end of this year. China Mobile’s entrance to Via’s patent pool can thus be seen as a crucial step in the carrier’s own preparations for the move to 4G.
According to Via’s Director of Licensing John Ehler, China Mobile brings plenty to the table as it joins the program.
“China Mobile has been fairly active in producing patents. We find their endorsement of the patent pool to be significant because of the strength that’s coming out of China. It’s an interesting and important step to have a patent pool participated by these major Chinese players,” he told The Next Web in an interview.
Chinese telecommunications equipment maker and handset vendor ZTE was one of the initial members of the patent pool.
Ross also noted that, in his twenty years of working with patent pools, this is the first to have such significant participation of Chinese industry players during the formation stage.
Via first dipped into the patent pool business with a consortium of MPEG2, MPEG4 and AAC licensors. Along the way, it’s branched out to broadcast and wireless patent pools, leading up to its decision to create a group for the LTE standard. Since Via doesn’t itself have an IP stake in the pool, it’s able to administrate it as a third-party.
Image credit: Hemera