WiMAX Patent Pool Planned by Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Samsung Electronics Co., Sprint Nextel Corp., Alcatel-Lucent and Clearwire

Computerworld and the WSJ articles state that several WiMAX stakeholders will jointly license patents that cover WiMAX technology in an attempt to limit royalty rates that could deter customers from using it. The group of six, now known as the Open Patent Alliance (OPA), wants to make IPR costs predictable so that the WiMAX ecosystem will grow.

Larry Goldstein, a patent lawyer who wrote a book on patent pools, said the WiMax group could reduce the number of licensing deals to be negotiated even if some patent holders don’t join. "It can cut down on the onerous negotiations and cut down on the overall royalty rate," he said.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121297783001956285.html

In a webcast on June 9th the OPA members made it clear that companies that join the group don’t relinquish their patents. The IPR remains with the owners and they are free to use them. Instead the group will work to make it easier for others to license those patents.

In addition, the OPA referred to itself as a "patent pool" and said that it is very different from the WiMAX Forum, an organization with a goal of promoting interoperability and collaboration among its members. 

 
The WiMAX Forum conducted an independent IPR study in October 2006 finding about 1550 WiMAX-related patents owned by 330 companies. Samsung has the largest share of patents at 20%. Also, the study found that 74% of companies with more than 10 patents were WiMAX Forum member companies. Outsiders who have essential patents that might attempt a legal block to stifle WiMAX deployments appear limited. While the OPA initially will focus its efforts on the WiMAX standard, it may work with other industry groups in the future.

Sriram Viswanathan, general manager, WiMAX program office and vice president of Intel Capital said that "it’s very important to have predictable costs of IPR and that has not existed in the cell phone market. OPA removes that."

Barry West, CTO of Sprint Nextel and president of Xohm and the "new" Clearwire, said that Sprint is a big believer in the power of the embedded device model, adding that having a large number of device makers is key to this model. "To encourage this, it’s helpful if IPR is easy and predictable. I look foward to working with the OPA and I encourage others to join so we can rapidly spread the growth of WiMAX devices."

Our Take: 

 
WiMAX players need to make the technology available quickly and inexpensively to get a head start on LTE, which all Cellco’s are likely to deploy in the 2011 time frame. The WiMAX patent pool is a step in the right direction.   However, we still believe that WiMAX will succeed only in developing countries that have visionary regulators (not like in India- see our two WiMAX in India posts).
 
Here is another view:  WiMax Patent Pool, Looking a bit Shallow
 
http://www.wimax360.com/profiles/blog/show?id=610217%3ABlogPost%3A80661
 
 

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