The top two global RAN equipment makers, Huawei and Ericsson, have announced the renewal of a multi-year global patent cross-licensing agreement, which enables each to use the other’s standardized (3GPP, ITU, IEEE, and IETF standards for 3G, 4G, and 5G cellular technologies) and patented technologies. The patent sharing agreement includes network infrastructure, as well as endpoint devices.
“We are delighted to reach a long-term global cross-licensing agreement with Ericsson,” said Alan Fan, Head of Huawei’s Intellectual Property Department. “As major contributors of standard essential patents (SEPs) for mobile communication, the companies recognize the value of each other’s intellectual property, and this agreement creates a stronger patent environment. It demonstrates the commitment both parties have forged that intellectual property should be properly respected and protected.”
“Both companies are major contributors to mobile communication standards and recognize the value of each other’s intellectual property. This agreement demonstrates the commitment of both parties that intellectual property should be respected and rewarded, and that leading technological innovations should be shared across the industry. A balanced approach to licensing ensures that the interests of both patent holders and implementers are served fairly, driving healthy, sustainable industry development for the benefit of consumers and enterprises everywhere.”
Over the past 20 years, Huawei has been a major contributor to mainstream ICT standards, including those for cellular, Wi-Fi, and multimedia codecs. In 2022, Huawei topped the European Patent Office’s applicant ranking for number of patent applications filed, with 4,505 applications.
“Our commitment to sharing leading technological innovations will drive healthy, sustainable industry development and provide consumers with more robust products and services,” added Fan.
Huawei is both a holder and implementer of SEPs and seeks to take a balanced approach to licensing. Through the signing of this agreement, it is both giving and receiving access to key technologies. Fan said, “This agreement is the result of intensive discussions that ensured the interests of both patent holders and implementers are served fairly.”
Christina Petersson, Ericsson’s chief IP officer said, “This agreement demonstrates the commitment of both parties that intellectual property should be respected and rewarded, and that leading technological innovations should be shared across the industry. A balanced approach to licensing ensures that the interests of both patent holders and implementers are served fairly.”
The last time the two companies extended a cross-licensing agreement was in 2016. Over the past few years, both companies have actively contributed to developing key mobile standards.
Earlier this year, the European Patent Office published the EPO Patent Index 2022: with 4,505 patents filed, Huawei was the top contributor, while Ericsson came in fifth with 1,827. Currently, according to the Financial Times, Huawei owns 20% of global patents which makes it the world’s largest 5G patent owner. Ericsson says they’ve been granted 60,000 patents.
Both Huawei and Ericsson are part of the Avanci patent pool, although the Chinese company is a recent addition following Avanci’s launch of a 5G vehicular programme earlier this month, which it says will “simplify the licensing of the cellular technologies used in next generation connected vehicles.”
Other Avanci patent licencees include Samsung, Philips, Panasonic and ZTE.
However, while Huawei and Ericsson have not engaged in active patent litigation, towards the end of last year Huawei demonstrated an intention to be more litigious over its patent portfolio. This included filing lawsuits against car manufacturer Stellantis over mobile phone patents, as well as launching a series of lawsuits over Wi-Fi 6 patents against Amazon, Netgear and AVM.
Around the same time, in the midst of a US FRAND trial, Ericsson and Apple signed a global patent licence agreement. This ended one of the largest disputes over implementation patents and SEPs in recent years, which spanned the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, Colombia and Brazil.
Chinese companies’ patents awarded in the U.S. increased ~10% while U.S. patent grants declined ~7% in 2021