Patent law: Transforming the telecommunications industry
The telecommunications industry is perhaps the largest driving force behind almost all other industries that benefit from it – it is the epicenter for a variety of other industries that depend on it. Remember how online payments of electricity bills, and online bank transactions 10 years back have now moved to apps sitting in our smartphone. Today, a smartphone is anything but a cell phone used for calling – the users depend on smartphones for many other things such as – remote working, ordering groceries and entertainment. Off late, the mobile phone has also become a wallet for many – perhaps, the demonetization provided the necessary impetus!
The largest and most widely used services by users currently are– video streaming, Internet of Things (IoT), and mobile payments. We took a deeper dive into each of these areas from a patenting activity standpoint and identified over 10,000 patent applications that are filed in India for these three technologies. Of these patent publications, almost 60% have been published in the past 5 years indicating an increased focus on innovation. The largest chunk of publications studied was accounted for by the mobile payments segment (~70% share) followed by the Video Streaming and IoT, roughly accounting for 15% each.
Interesting trends emerge upon looking at the owners of these patents – the overall top assignees in the patent dataset studied are – Qualcomm, Samsung and MasterCard. Collectively, these three players account for roughly 12% patents studied, thereby indicating that many other players are active in these areas and there is no single player that holds sizeable chunks of IP for now.
Digging deeper into the individual domains, the following trends emerge:
Top Players: Qualcomm, Mastercard and Alibaba group
Only Indian company making it to the top 10 list in this domain was Tata Consultancy Services
Top Players: Qualcomm, Sony, Philips
Top Players: Samsung, Qualcomm, Lovely Professional University (LPU)
Notably, Academia also seems to have active interest in pursuing patent filings in this domain
The telecom value chain comprises of multiple segments – Device manufacturers, Infrastructure and platform vendors, Operators, etc. The patent activity from the operators seems to be on the lower side – our research was able to locate only 71 Indian patent publications from Reliance JioInfocomm, 32 from Vodafone and 7 from Bharti Airtel. The main reason for low patent activity may be due to the fact that these Operators put in very little or no research efforts, and they implement the technology developed by the Infrastructure and platform vendors.
Undoubtedly, the next big phenomenon in the telecom industry will be the 5G revolution. According to a report from Qualcomm, 5G is predicted to have US$13.2 Trillion dollars of global economic output by the year 2035. Perhaps, the Infrastructure and platform vendors have realized this since long and have been amassing 5G related patents at a phenomenal rate. The following are the approximate counts of patent families (global data) declared as relating to the 5G standards:
Huawei– 3000+ patents
Ericsson – 1400+ patents
Nokia – 2000+ patents
Qualcomm – 1300+ patents
Digging deeper, we also studied the likelihood of these patents entering into India eventually, and the following statistics emerge:
|Company||Total patent families – All years||Patent families filed in India – All years||%||Total patent families – published>2015||Patent families filed in India – published>2015||%|
(Source: research on a leading third-party patent database; *Alcatel Lucent data included)
5G did not come into existence overnight, and the research has been going on for a while, but the most patents related to 5G were published after 2016, and we can see that the % of filing in India is on the rise by most companies actively pursuing 5G, noting an active interest in India.
All in all, it can be safely concluded that patents have thus far played a big role in shaping Telecom industry, and are likely to play a more crucial role in the coming times, especially in the 5G licensing space – though it remains to be seen who, among the above giants, wins the race to the 5G patent dominance.