5G and IoT licensing: Are we better connected?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

A vital first step to making a European success story of 5G and the ‘Internet of Things’ is to help businesses manufacturing connected products understand the wireless technology licensing environment. That is why a group of innovative European companies have published a detailed draft guidance to help inform them.

Kerry Miller, Chair of the CEN-CENELEC Workshop Agreement entitled “Principles and guidance for licensing Standard Essential Patents in 5G and the Internet of Things, including the Industrial Internet”  is also head of IP Regulatory Affairs at Nokia.

The advent of the 5G wireless standard will enable many new sectors – including the automotive, domestic appliance and medical tech industries – to replicate the global success that 4G brought to the smartphone market, by developing connected products for the ‘Internet of Things’.

The success of the European Union’s digital economy ambitions will also hinge on its ability to help European companies claim a large share of the value predicted to be generated by the ‘Internet of Things’ by 2025.

To help achieve these goals, I chaired a CEN-CENELEC Workshop Agreement taskforce for IP Europe – the coalition of IP intensive companies – and a number of international businesses involved in developing and using wireless technology standards, to capture the “Principles and guidance for licensing Standard Essential Patents in 5G and the Internet of Things, including the Industrial Internet”.

To ensure that our initial draft was substantive, we developed the guidance through a CEN-CENELEC Workshop procedure, capturing the licensing principles and practices that have enabled the rapid development and deployment of 2G, 3G and 4G standardised mobile communication technologies in the smartphone and ICT sector.

CEN-CENELEC Workshop Agreements (CWAs) are “publications intended to satisfy market demands for a more flexible and timelier alternative to the traditional European Standard (EN), but one which still possesses the authority derived from the openness of participation and agreement inherent in the operations of CEN or CENELEC and their national members.”

Ours contains six best practice principles for conducting Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory licensing negotiations, and supplementary guidance on current practices in the ICT sector.

The principles and guidance distilled in our draft CWA will help new entrants understand the licensing environment and successfully negotiate licenses on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

We also hope that they can benefit from the work of the European Commission’s ‘Expert Group on SEP licensing’ as its – soon to be announced – members examine how to ensure an efficient marketplace for new entrants.

We believe that the better SMEs and others understand wireless technology licensing, the more they and the products they will build on it can flourish. A shared understanding of licensing negotiation practices can benefit everybody, including 5G developers, implementors, and ultimately consumers who will benefit from rapid access to the latest and best globally interoperable wireless technologies.

As organisations with decades of experience in licensing Standard Essential Patents (SEPs) – both as owners and implementors – we hope our experience of the licensing environment, distilled in this draft document, will make it easier for SMEs and new industries to access the technology. We all have a shared interest in realising the full potential of the ‘Internet of Things’ ecosystem.

A sixty-day public comment period has now begun (ending on the 13 December) on the principles and guidance and we welcome participation and feedback during that period. We also intend to evolve our guidance over time to help businesses and policymakers understand other licensing practices and solutions as new markets open and mature.

During this period and beyond we welcome all constructive feedback on the principles and guidance set-out in the document and will work proactively to engage with businesses and policymakers who would be interested in collaborating further on this draft.

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