Press release

PA Consulting’s latest report identifies a key shift in 5G essential patent ownership

28 April 2021

PA Consulting’s 5G Standards Essential Patent Analysis finds a significant increase in the patent declarations against 5G technologies, leading to a substantial rise in the overall number of essential patents.

PA Consulting (PA), the global innovation and transformation consultancy, that’s bringing ingenuity to life, has released its latest 5G independent Standard Essential Patent report, revealing key findings for facilitating 5G technology licensing negotiations globally.

The report extends the original analysis PA undertook in November 2019, by including the independent essentiality review of 5G Patents declared to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) up to March 2020. The analysis finds that the huge influx of patent declarations to ETSI has been met with a significant variation in the relative holding of Essential patents[1].

As with previous reports, the study has been carried out independently by PA’s in-house wireless telecom engineers, who bring expertise in implementing technologies of relevance to 5G.The analysis provides the true essentiality ranking of the leading 5G essential patent holders globally, rather than one simply based on counting the number of 5G raw patent disclosures made to ETSI. The latest findings are crucial for facilitating 5G technology licensing negotiations around the world and will help identify the shifting strengths of each licensor’s declared patent portfolios.

PA’s latest Independent 5G Essential IPR Report, found:

  • The overall essential patent landscape has doubled in size by number of patents granted in recent years
  • 90% of all patents deemed potentially technically essential to 5G are related to the physical layer and the radio access network (RAN) technologies
  • The incumbents from previous generations of wireless telecoms still dominate the 5G essential patent landscape, with Nokia, NTT Docomo and Qualcomm at the top when considering patent families with at least one granted patent in major jurisdictions (US/EP/JP/KR/CN) with LG, Samsung and Huawei following
  • Huawei and Samsung are up top when considering all patent families declared to ETSI (including ones with only patent publications and unpublished applications)
  • As per declarations to previous technologies, there is a significant variation in the average quality of each company’s patents.

PA’s transparent methodology bases its patent evaluation on a deep understanding of wireless specifications gained from developing telecom handsets and base stations for over 25 years. PA’s engineers have independently reviewed tens of thousands of patents across 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G standards and evaluated the claims of each patent. The result is a database of all the patents evaluated, their potential essentiality ranking and the rationale for the ranking, along with a summary report of each licensor’s current ownership of SEPs.  

Sireesha Ancha, intellectual property expert at PA Consulting, said: “The patents declared to ETSI as potentially Standards Essential are increasing multi-fold each year. As the 5G Standards evolve with each release, there are increasing opportunities for communication between our devices and surroundings, revolutionising various sectors globally, including consumer, manufacturing, healthcare, telecoms and transportation.

“Therefore, the licencing of 5G patents is becoming increasingly important with the evolution of technology. ETSI’s intellectual property rights (IPR) policy states holders of SEPs must be prepared to grant licenses under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions, but determining what FRAND is makes it particularly challenging in a dynamic patent ownership environment. This raises crucial questions around how many declared patents really are essential and which companies own them at any point in time.

“Our updated report answers these questions directly and provides analysis in a comprehensive and objective way. PA has been a trusted advisor on this topic for many years, and our reports are quoted in court cases as independent evidence of the actual essentiality of patents.”

Click here for more information about our IP and Patents work, or to request one of our Essential Wireless Patent Reports. 

[1] Essential patents IPR means that it is not possible on technical (but not commercial) grounds, taking into account normal technical practice and the state of the art generally available at the time of standardisation, to make, sell, lease, and otherwise dispose of, repair, use or operate EQUIPMENT or METHODS which comply with a STANDARD without infringing that IPR.

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