Prediction: The LTE Patent Bundle Won't Prevent LTE Patent Lawsuits
from the just-wait-and-see dept
I’ve been seeing a few folks take the news that a bunch of big telco firms looking to get into the LTE (Long Term Evolution) market have agreed to form a patent pool. Some are even suggesting that this is exactly how the patent system should work. That’s wishful thinking at best. LTE is the next generation of wireless technology that many telcos around the world are adopting as their choice for “4G” technology — and it will be important. However, don’t think that just because some companies have agreed to pool patents that it’s a good thing. There have been plenty of patent pools in the past, and you can bet that one of two things is likely to happen. First, some other company (or a few other companies, and almost definitely some individual patent holders) will spring up at some point with yet another patent, claiming that LTE technology infringes on that patent and all these firms owe a ton of money. And, given how so many patent holders don’t believe in apportioning damages, they’ll even claim to want more than all the money being spread around in the pool itself.
But, much more to the point, the fact that so many patents need to be “pooled” just to offer this technology should be a pretty clear warning sign that the patent system isn’t working as intended. Basically, what you have here is a patent thicket. Many of the patents in question are overlapping patents that never should have been issued. However, given all the uncertainty around patent litigation (and how the courts will be treating patent issues), most of these firms realize it’s better to agree to split the pie rather than sue. That’s still not a good result, because it only encourages more companies to suddenly push for these sorts of marginal and totally unnecessary patents just to get included in future patent pools — even if their “invention” really adds nothing to the technology. Furthermore, this patent pool will automatically increase the price of all LTE technology, making sure that adoption is slowed down. So, yes, it’s better to see a patent pool created than to see everyone just jump to lawsuits, but the history of patent pools is littered with additional lawsuits and companies having to pay for patents that they shouldn’t be paying for. This is hardly a “good” solution — it just encourages the bad system to get worse.