5G Patent Wars: Are Nokia’s 3,000 “5G” Patent Declarations Legit?

A Nokia press release today, Nokia announces over 3,000 5G patent declarations, the company declared more than 3,000 patent families to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) which were said to be “essential for the 5G standard.”

We wonder what 5G standard is that as IMT 2020 has not yet been completed?  Neither has 3GPP Release 16 (5G phase 2) which when combined with Release 16 (5G Phase 1) will be the REAL (but unofficial) 5G standard.

Nokia wrote in the aforementioned press release:

With the latest declarations, the portfolio of Nokia cellular standard essential patents (SEPs) [1] declared to one or more of the 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G standards spans more than 3,400 patent families, of which more than 3,000 are relevant to 5G standards. This SEP portfolio has more than doubled in size over the past five years, with Nokia having a leading market share. Nokia Bell Labs produces the majority of these SEPs, and Nokia Technologies business manages and licenses this patent portfolio, with more than 200 licensees, including most major smartphone vendors and many automotive brands.

NOTE 1. HOW ARE SEPs DETERMINED IF A STANDARD LIKE 5G HAS NOT YET BEEN COMPLETED?

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Marcus Weldon, Nokia Chief Technology Officer and President of Nokia Bell Labs, said: “Nokia has defined many of the fundamental technologies used in virtually all mobile devices and digital systems and networks, and these inventions are critical to the new Industrial Internet of Things era. We standardize these inventions to allow widespread utilization and adoption. The benefits of 5G are initially in massive amounts of new capacity for consumers, but as the new technology and network architecture develops, it will enable new applications for enterprises and industrial businesses, with end-to-end 5G networks forming the critical fabric for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with Nokia Bell Labs once again at the heart of this revolution.”

Jenni Lukander, President of Nokia Technologies, said: “I am thrilled that our R&D efforts are creating new opportunities for the consumer and industrial technology ecosystem, as the 5G era gathers momentum. As an inventor for the long-term, Nokia is able to innovate for a 5G future because of the fair reward we earn through licensing the standardized technologies created from our extensive R&D investments. This virtuous cycle creates vast new potential in 5G technologies, and I am excited for the possibilities ahead.”

Resource:
5G standards and research leadership (Nokia)

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Comment and Analysis:

We previously reported that Samsung had licensed some of Nokia’s “5G” patents in this blog post.

Nokia’s so called “milestone” was positioned as a major step forward from the previous one six months ago declaring 2,000 patents.  The clear intention was to create the impression that Nokia’s 5G R&D efforts have improved by 50% in the last six months, but it’s very difficult to verify that claim since it contains so many unknowns.

Is all that blah, blah, blah just PR or the truth?  Let’s examine this 5G Patent War issue in some detail.

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In a December 11, 2019 letter to the WSJ, Jenny Beth Martin wrote:

Nothing could be further from the truth. Qualcomm today is the undisputed leader in the 5G space for the simple reason that no other companies can keep up with the San Diego-based innovator. Qualcomm holds a staggering 140,000 patents and patent applications for 5G technologies.

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On March 12, 2020, Huawei was the clear leader in a European Patent Office (EPO) report titled Digital technologies take top spot in European patent applicationsFor the first time in more than a decade, the EPO said that digital technologies have taken the lead in patent applications filed. According to the EPO Patent Index 2019, the surge in the fields of digital communications (+19.6%) and computer technology (+10.2%) is fuelling the sustained growth in patent filings.

TopTechnicalFields

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Statista says Huawei is leading in 5G patents.   With more than 3,000 patent applications filed and more than 1,200 of these granted, Chinese manufacturer Huawei took first place in a ranking complied by IPlytics and the Technical University of Berlin.

Infographic: Huawei Is Leading the 5G Patent Race | Statista

 

Scott Bicheno of telecoms.com says about half of Huawei’s 5G patent applications seem to have been filed in China, and those account for half of all such applications made in China. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that, it’s worth noting that Samsung and LG, which are in the top three 5G patent applicants alongside Qualcomm, have hardly filed any applications in South Korea. It’s almost as if the barrier to entry for patent filing in China is lower.

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This author is also very skeptical about 5G patents, in light of the REALITY that many of the key 5G attributes, e.g. ultra high reliability, ultra low latency, 5G packet core, etc have not been completed yet by 3GPP.

So how can those and many other important features of “not yet completed” 5G standards be patented at this time?

Also, 5G builds on 4G-LTE so some of the so called “5G” patents might be more related to the latter.

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In a  blog post from October 2019 titled Why you shouldn’t believe everything you read about 5G patents, Christina Petersson, CIPO and Head of IPR & Licensing at Ericsson, argues that when you apply certain essentiality filters, Ericsson is number one when it comes to 5G patents.

The patent intelligence division of the law firm of Bird & Bird, twoBirds Pattern, examined news articles and studies around 5G standard essential patents (SEPs) and found that the people writing about patents often get it wrong concerning which companies own the largest 5G SEP portfolios. They found that studies, in addition to being premature at this stage, are often over-simplistic or flawed, and that seemingly small corrections produce dramatically different results.

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Bicheno concludes:

That this patent war is being waged in Europe probably isn’t a coincidence either, as that is the primary battleground in the geopolitical battle of wills between the US and China. Every time a European country refuses to ban Huawei that represents a win for the Chinese state and its belt-and-road strategy of economic imperialism.

The fact remains, however, that nearly all of the patent announcements being chucked out there are largely meaningless given the lack of qualification and context attached to them. Most patent applications made now won’t be processed for around four years, and it’s only then that we’ll know who the 5G technology leader is. Until then the industry would be well advised to take any such claims with a big pinch of salt. We certainly will.

It’s quite clear that heavy cross-licensing, patent litigation, and patent pooling generate billions of dollars of legal liability and 5G will spark new and unpreceded patent wars that will dwarf previous ones.

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References:

https://www.nokia.com/about-us/news/releases/2020/03/24/nokia-announces-over-3000-5g-patent-declarations/

https://telecoms.com/503274/5g-patent-chest-beating-is-an-unhelpful-distraction/

https://www.wsj.com/articles/qualcomm-5g-security-and-patent-wars-11576096074

https://www.statista.com/chart/20095/companies-with-most-5g-patent-families-and-patent-families-applications/

https://www.iplytics.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/5G-patent-study_TU-Berlin_IPlytics-2020.pdf

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “5G Patent Wars: Are Nokia’s 3,000 “5G” Patent Declarations Legit?

  1. The author used lots of facts to make his key points. The research was exemplary.

    Are the 5G patents for real? Nobody knows for sure as the 5G standards are not yet complete. However, we will know a lot more in late 2020- early 2021.

    Qualcomm might be a good bet to be the 5G technology leader.

    Huawei is questionable as far as their 5G patents are concerned, despite one market research firm stating they are #1. What criteria was that research finding based on?

    For years the hype for 5G has gone up like a hot thermometer. So what company will be the leader in 5G technology? Place your bets now, because it is a huge gamble. Caveat emptor!

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