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2G/3G/4G

LTE Patent Pools: Two's a Crowd

10:50 AM -- LTE patent pools are like buses: You wait for ages for one to arrive and then a couple come along at the same time.

The wireless industry now has two patent pools for Long Term Evolution (LTE) since Sisvel SpA announced today that it has launched its own, just one month after Via Licensing Corp. started the industry's first patent pool for the 4G standard. (See Sisvel Launches LTE Patent Pool and Carriers Plunge Into an LTE Patent Pool.)

Sisvel's portfolio of patents comes from Cassidian (an EADS company), the Chinese Academy of Telecommunications Technology , the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) , Orange (NYSE: FTE), TDF, KPN Telecom NV (NYSE: KPN) and patents that Sisvel acquired from Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) in late 2011. (See Sisvel Buys Nokia Patents and Euronews: Nokia Sells Patents.)

The company says it is open to any and all owners of essential LTE patents.

But it's puzzling to me how the industry will benefit from having two patent pools for LTE when the purpose of such an organization is to reduce the cost, complexity and uncertainty of licensing for operators, equipment suppliers and device makers -- and keep them out of court too. Having to do business with more than one pool adds an extra layer of complexity that I'm sure many in the industry would like to do without.

On the other hand, having two LTE patent pools is better than nothing.

As Florian Mueller, consultant and FOSS Patents blogger, puts it in an emailed response to my questions, "Two patent pools related to the same standard are not as good as one but better than none at all. The number of patent holders on each of today's cellular standards is so high that some kind of aggregation is in the interest of patentees as well as licensees."

But however many LTE patent pools crop up after Sisvel's and Via Licensing's, though, they will be limited by the lack of participation from the big LTE patent holders such as Samsung Corp. , Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. or Nokia -- none of which have jumped in to either pool. (See LTE Patent Pool: No Diving! and Vendors Balk at LTE Patent Pool Proposal.)

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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