“By assessing the issue of 5G patenting activity from a host of new perspectives, this report casts a wider net and provides more insight than previous patent studies to assess the competitiveness of 5G.”
Earlier this week, the USPTO released a report analyzing the current state of 5G technology in an attempt “to gain an informed understanding of the global competitiveness and economic vulnerabilities of 5G manufacturers and suppliers in the United States.” Initially, the report noted that many other studies were done to identify the market leaders, but came to different conclusions. The USPTO noted that “[g]Although the results of previous studies differ, this report examines several datasets using different methodologies, focusing on the types of patent families and patent attributes that economists associate with greater great importance or economic value.
By analyzing global patent families (patent applications filed in multiple jurisdictions claiming the same subject matter), rather than counting individual patents, the USPTO hoped to avoid overestimating a company’s contribution to the industry. However, the USPTO noted that if a company chooses not to file patent applications outside of its home country, the analysis of global patent families can be misleading.
To account for this, the USPTO has also considered “triadic” patent families. The Office used the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) definition of “triadic” patent families as having “at least one patent application filed with the USPTO, the European Patents and the Japan Patent Office.” The OECD explained that the use of triadic patent families improves comparability because only patents applied for across countries are included. Additionally, triadic patent families are considered to have greater value due to the maintenance cost that the patent holder has to pay. According to the OECD, if the technology was not worth protecting, companies would not spend the amount of money needed to protect the technology in those countries.
As businesses continue to innovate, organizations are trying to implement 5G industry standards. By implementing a common technical standard, companies can seamlessly use their equipment with that made by other manufacturers, the USPTO explained. The development of 5G standards was made under the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). This partnership project is a standards development organization with seven “organizational partners”. To promote fair use of technology, rules for the standard development process have been established by 3GPP. An organizational partner, the European Standards Institute (ETSI), asks members submitting technical proposals to identify intellectual property that could be essential if the proposal is adopted.
In Figure 1 below, the USPTO compared global and triadic family filings of 5G patent filings reported by ETSI by the seven leading companies in the industry: Qualcomm, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung, LG, and ZTE. As shown in Figure 1, Huawei leads LG and Qualcomm by 12% and 25% respectively in the number of 5G patent families reported by ETSI globally. However, a review of filings from the triadic family describes Qualcomm as the most active 5G filer, with more than 30% more filings than its next closest competitor, Samsung. The USPTO has acknowledged that both sets of data should be considered when identifying market leaders, as triadic families may be considered more valuable and different companies top global patent filings than filings. triadic patents.
The USPTO also analyzed the competitive advantage of patent portfolios in the 5G space focusing on four key technology areas. The four technology areas articulated by the USPTO include: (1) local wireless resource management, (2) multiple use of the transmission path, (3) radio transmission systems, and information error detection. or the correction of errors in transmission systems. This analysis, the USPTO explained, shifts the focus from the number of patent filings to their importance.
The results in Table 1 below show that “in some 5G technologies, no one company emerges as the clear leader.” While LG was the most active filer in the categories of local wireless resource management, radio transmission systems and multiple use of transmission path, Qualcomm was the leader in information error detection. Huawei follows LG, Samsung and Qualcomm in patent families and patents or patent filing activity.
The USPTO also analyzed patent filings using criteria developed by economists to determine innovative activity as a marker of competitiveness. The criteria used by the Office to analyze patent portfolios included market coverage, technical relevance, radicality, legal breadth and scope. As shown in Figures 2 and 3, Qualcomm’s patent portfolio ranks first in terms of value, followed by Ericsson and Nokia.
The USPTO explained that “[b]By assessing the issue of 5G patenting activity from a host of new perspectives, this report casts a wider net and provides more insight than previous patent studies to assess the competitiveness of 5G. The report concluded that although there appear to be several companies competing for market dominance, no one company is winning the race for 5G technology.