Demystifying cellular patents and licensing Part 3: All patents are not created equal (Analyst Angle)

Prakash Sangam
4 min readJun 3, 2019

The statement “All patents are not created equal” seems like a cliché, but is absolutely true! The differences between patents are multi-dimensional and much more nuanced than what meets the eye. I slightly touched upon this in my previous. There is denying that going forward, patents will play an increasingly bigger role in cellular, not only pitting companies against each other but also countries against one another for superiority and leadership in technology. Hence it is imperative that we understand how patents are differentiated, and how their value changes based on their importance.

Let me start with a simple illustration. Consider today’s cars, which have lots of different technologies and hence patents. When you compare the patents for the car engine, to say, the patents for the doors, the difference between relative importance is pretty clear. If you look at the standards for building a car, probably the patents for both the engine and the door are listed as listed essential, i.e., SEPs (Standard Essential Patents). However, the patent related to the engine is at the core of the vehicle’s basic functionality. The patent for the door, although essential, is clearly less significant. Another way to look at this is, without the idea of building the engine; there is not even a need for the idea for doors. That means the presence of one is the reason for other’s existence. The same concepts also apply to cellular technology and devices. Some patents are invariably more important than others. For example, if you consider the 5G standard, the patents that cover the Scalable-OFDMA are fundamental to 5G. These are the core of 5G’s famed flexibility to support multiple Gigabits of speeds, very low latency, and extremely high reliability. You can’t compare the value of that patent to another one that might increase the speed by a few kilobits in a rare use case. Both patents, although being SEPs, are far apart in terms of value and importance.

On a side note, if you would like to know more about SEPs, check out my earlier article here .

That brings us to another classic challenge of patent evaluation-patent counting. Counting is the most simplistic and easy to understand measure-whoever has the most…

Prakash Sangam

Tech Industry Analyst, Forbes Contributor, EETimes & RCR Wireless writer, covering 5G, AI, IoT, Wi-Fi and everything wireless. Founder