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A 360 Degree View of LIFT

One of the most important components of the recent WiFi 6 pool announcement was the Licensing Incentive Framework for Technologies (LIFT) royalty payment structure. Several participants in our recent Wi-Fi 6 webinar described the rationale behind LIFT and how it operates. This post assembles their comments to deliver a 360-degree view of LIFT, including comments from Sisvel (as patent pool administrator), an economist, two founding patent owners of the pool, and an important pool licensee/licensor.

The Administrator’s View

Let’s start with comments from Andrea Rombolà, Program Manager for the Wi-Fi 6 pool, who described Sisvel’s motivation for creating LIFT. “LIFT was born out of our vision at Sisvel to create licensing programs that accelerate technology adoption and increase the size of the pie for patent owners and implementers. One problem in licensing negotiations is the competitive disadvantage perceived by early licenses, which claim, among others, that they need to factor in a bigger cost in the bill of material, the cost of the license, than their competitors, which have not taken a license yet.”

“After years of interaction with patent holders and implementers of several technologies, we realized that in certain areas like Wi-Fi, this problem could be mitigated. We came up with LIFT, which has been over two years in the making and it has been fine-tuned with the help of the founding members of this pool. All of them liked the concept behind it and very enthusiastically engaged in discussions with us.”

The Economist's View

Bowman Heiden
, the Executive Director at The Tusher Center, University of California, Berkeley, and the Co-Director at the Gothenburg Center for Intellectual Property, presented the economist’s view. Heiden started by describing the “prisoner’s dilemma,” a classic game theory construct by which two suspects are questioned separately by the police. “The best outcome would be for both suspects to stay quiet. However, if one suspect talks, the consequences are worse for the suspect that stays quiet. Thus, while the suspects would be better off protecting one another, each of them is incentivized to act in their own self-interest, which produces a worse result than cooperating.”

The corollary in patent licensing is that the best long term result occurs when both parties cooperate and implementors pay a fair royalty to patent owners. However, early implementors may perceive themselves at a disadvantage because royalties add to their cost structure but not to the cost structure of competitors that refuse to take a license.

According to Heiden, “Sisvel developed the LIFT remove the asymmetry between early adopters and reluctant licensees. LIFT incentivizes licensees by providing a partial immediate payment that's based on the license penetration. And then there's a deferred amount of remaining liability that they pay later on, as the penetration goes up–and they pay this at a discount so that the early adopters are not at a disadvantage against later adopters.”

Heiden’s diagram illustrates the theory. Early licensees “Pay less in the beginning. It ramps up as participation grows. They carry this liability as a deferred royalty, and that only is paid if the participation gets to a certain level”

Heiden concludes, “The overall goal of LIFT is to increase efficiency and reduce friction within the SEP market. So when you create a platform that incentivizes a large proportion of licensors and licensees to participate, it benefits all the parties involved. So one way to say this is a rising wave lifts all ships.”

The Patent Owner’s View

Ultimately, it’s the patent owners that set pool royalty terms, and the founding members of the Wi-Fi 6 pool had to approve the LIFT payment structure before it went into place. They did so because they share Sisvel’s vision, as expressed by Rombolá, for “licensing programs that accelerate technology adoption and increase the size of the pie for patent owners and implementers.”
For example, Jin Sam Kwak, Chief Executive Officer, and Founder at WILUS Inc, a founding member of the Wi-Fi pool, describes LIFT as “an alternative scheme for sponsoring the adoption of new technology for implementers. Adjusting the royalty payments based on the global market penetration of the Wi-Fi 6 technologies can incentivize the new standard adoptions. With LIFT, since the Wi-Fi 6 pool is made more flexible and attractive to potential licensees, they can join the pool as quickly as possible.”

This holistic view was echoed by Jako Eleveld, Head of IP Licensing, and VP at Philips, which is both a patent owner and pool licensee. During the webinar, Eleveld commented that “LIFT prevents the problem that we usually have in patent pools that nobody wants to jump in first because paying full royalties from the start may be a competitive disadvantage. By paying only a fraction from the start and more later, when other implementors sign up as well, we have alleviated that problem. So, that is good for implementers, and what is good for implementers is also good for the pool and hence for patent holders. We believe that this avoids holdout in the market, and more implementers will sign up earlier, which is beneficial.”

The Implementor’s View

Huawei has been a Wi-Fi implementor for almost 20 years. Huawei’s view of LIFT was expressed by Zhiyong (Alan) Fan, Vice President, Head of IPR Department at Huawei Technologies, who commented, “LIFT is a very creative way to do licensing. It encourages early adoption of new technologies, and it helps the new licensees to maintain their competitiveness against the companies who have yet to take the license.” Huawei is also a patent owner and licensee of Sisvel’s Wi-Fi 6 Pool.

As you’ve heard from all involved, by protecting the competitiveness of early pool licensees, LIFT encourages early technology adoption of Wi-Fi 6, helping the market expansion, pool participation and ultimately the consumers, that can buy their innovative new products. Royalties paid to patent owners fund future innovations that deliver technology enhancements for Wi-Fi 7 and beyond, perpetuating the innovation cycle.

This makes LIFT look good from any angle.

Photo by Shad0wfall from Pixabay


Curbing the Abuse of Anti-Suit Injunctions with Alternative Dispute Resolution: Two Views


Two articles on anti-suit injunctions (ASI) were recently published by Sisvel and a distinguished cast of co-authors. These articles will be highly useful for any IP professional seeking to learn what anti-suit injunctions are, how they are being used--and abused--why alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques like arbitration and mediation are better options, and how standard-setting organizations (SSOs), Competition Authorities, and the courts can encourage licensors and implementors to pursue ADR rather than ASIs.

The first article, entitled “Anti-suit injunctions are a race to the bottom – and arbitration is the answer”, was published in IAM in February 2022 and was co-authored by Sisvel founder Roberto Dini, Jing He, and Mario Franzosi.

The second article appeared in the March issue of les Nouvelles, and was entitled “The Phenomenon Of Anti-Suit Injunctions And Extraterritorial Implications”. This article was an extract by Sisvel’s Valentina Piola of a webinar discussion organized by LES Italia on the theme “Anti-suit injunctions under different national laws - Italy, Germany, UK and US”,  which was held on September 29, 2021.  The webinar was moderated by Roberto Dini, and featured  Mario Franzosi, Sir Robin Jacob, Judge Paul R. Michel, Judge Randall Rader, Cordula Schumacher, and Valentina Piola, who summarized the discussion for the article.

IAM Article: Anti-Suit Injunctions are a race to the bottom – and arbitration is the answer

The IAM article boldly defines the problem in the first paragraph:

The race for jurisdictional supremacy in the field of SEP litigation is nothing new. However, the recent take-up of anti-suit injunctions (ASIs) by some courts has the potential to lead to a spiraling race to the bottom in the context of global SEP dispute resolution, ultimately resulting in a litigation gridlock. The urgency of the situation is reflected in the European Union’s initiation of a formal WTO process in July 2021 seeking more information from China regarding its use of ASIs.  

Closing out the introduction, the authors presage what they propose as the best solution --international alternative dispute resolution (ADR)--pointing out that the Court of Justice of the European Union recognized the role that independent third parties could play in resolving SEP disputes in the 2015 Huawei v ZTE.

The ASI phenomenon

The authors next review how ASIs are being used in patent litigation, with a key starting point being Unwired Planet v Huawei, in which the UK Supreme Court determined the value of a FRAND royalty to be paid for a global SEP license. After the Unwired Planet decision, the authors argue, Chinese courts, in particular, extended the decision far beyond the intent of the UK court:

The UK court held that if the plaintiff was unwilling to take a global license on the basis of the court ruling, it would issue an injunction covering the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom alone. This contrasts with the practices of Chinese courts, which take on cases as contract disputes,without considering any underlying patent infringement matters, and subsequently deploy ASIs, which have the effect of interfering with foreign judgments or companies over which they do not have jurisdiction.  

As the authors observe, “This has raised big questions about sovereignty and also sparked discussions about which courts can define FRAND royalty rates.”
The article then reviews the key factors considered by the Chinese courts when they issued ASIs in Huawei v Conversant, Xiaomi v InterDigital, and Samsung v Ericsson, which included:
●    the possible impact of the enforcement of foreign court decisions on parallel litigation in China;
●    whether it was necessary to issue an ASI;
●    whether the damage to the applicant if an ASI was not issued exceeded the damage to the respondent if an ASI was issued (i.e., the balance of interests);
●    whether issuing the ASI would damage public interest; and
●    whether issuing the ASI complied with the doctrine of comity. 

In particular, the authors take issue with the Chinese court’s analysis of public interest, stating:

It is regrettable that the courts in China seem to have an incomplete analysis of public interest...Insufficiently rewarding innovators who have incorporated their patented technologies into industry standards is contrary to the goal of fostering innovation and making new and safer products available. This is the real public interest, which is also the stated purpose of China’s Patent Law.

Reactions of national courts in Europe

The authors then described the responses to these ASI’s in Europe, first observing that “restraining a party from applying a foreign judgment in a foreign territory raises serious doubts about lawfulness, as it purports to bind courts in other countries. In this context, ASIs do not appear to take into account territorial sovereignty (a fundamental principle of any legal system).”

One reaction has been “a race to sue counterparties in courts deemed friendly, notwithstanding the universal principle of national sovereignty.” The Court of Appeal of England and Wales in Vestel v Access Advance addressed such forum shopping, finding that, unlike the over-reaching Chinese courts, they didn’t have jurisdiction to set a global FRAND rate absent an underlying action for patent infringement.

Relying upon both Sisvel v Haier and  InterDigital v Xiaomi, the authors posit that “a patent implementer who applies for an ASI, or intends to, cannot be regarded as sufficiently willing to take a license within the meaning of the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the German Federal Supreme Court.”

Regarding the specific issue of ASIs, the authors state:  

To put an end to the spiral of ASIs, anti-anti-suit injunction and anti-anti-anti-suit injunctions, the Munich Regional Court went a step further, holding the implementer liable in attempting to escape its obligation to pay royalties. The court was explicit: the implementer could try to acquire an ASI, but the patent owner could then go back to the Munich court, which would grant it an injunction. This reasoning demonstrates that a FRAND royalty cannot be proactively negotiated using ASIs, while trying to rebalance the situation between patent owner and implementer.

Arbitration – an efficient tool for solving FRAND disputes and avoid delaying tactics

Having detailed the problems associated with ASIs, the authors turned their attention to the best alternative, which they state are international arbitration bodies that deliver the following advantages:
●    Arbitration reduces the costs of litigation.
●    Arbitration enables parties to choose arbitrators with the necessary legal, technical, and economic expertise to fairly resolve SEP/FRAND disputes.
●    Arbitration can more easily cover entire SEP portfolios because, unlike court proceedings, the territoriality principle does not prevent arbitration tribunals from considering patent cases from various jurisdictions.
●    Finally, arbitral awards can be enforced across international borders under the regime of the New York Convention.

Despite these advantages, the authors recognize that “arbitration as an alternative to court disputes has so far yielded mixed results.” To promote arbitration, the authors recommend that all associated organizations and authorities should promote arbitration. For example, they call on standards-setting organizations (SSOs) to encourage arbitration among their members by requesting a declaration of willingness to arbitrate.

They advocate that competition authorities should “recognize that a lack of agreement on the FRAND royalty rate means that there is a competitive obligation among both patentees and implementers to arbitrate.” Finally, the authors recommend that “national judges called to decide on SEP matters could use their procedures to powerful effect to encourage people to arbitrate as a sign of good faith and willingness in FRAND disputes.”

In conclusion, the authors observe that “ASIs are emerging as a tool used by national courts to defend the interest of their industries and perhaps could also be seen as constituting state aid or even an unfair trade practice, in violation of international trade treaties such as the WTO and emerging multilateral agreements.” Then, they preset a dire warning.

Failing to reward innovators for their extensive R&D investments and to recognize the benefits that their patented technologies bring to society may discourage them from investing in new research. To the detriment of technological progress, they may decide to avoid participating in the standardization process and revert to proprietary, closed solutions or trade secrets as means of protection. Such a broken standard and patent ecosystem could well have all sorts of unintended consequences, producing an even worse scenario for all those involved.

LES NOUVELLES Article: The origins of Anti-Suit Injunctions phenomenon

The second article plows much of the same ground, but with a more detailed focus, starting with the origins of the anti-suit injunction, revealing ASIs to be just another form of hold out, and concluding again that the best solution for patent disputes are alternative dispute resolution techniques like arbitration and mediation.

The article again identifies Unwired Planet as the decision that launched the ASI phenomenon, though the panel quickly clarified how the Chinese Courts have overextended the decision far beyond where the UK Court intended. To recount, in Unwired Planet the UK Supreme Court found that setting a global license for the entire portfolio was the best solution when dealing with a large international SEP portfolio. However, unlike several Chinese ASI cases, Unwired started as a patent infringement action, which clearly gave the court jurisdiction over the parties. And, as mentioned previously, the Unwired Court didn’t interfere with the judicial power of other jurisdictions; rather, the defendant could either accept the worldwide royalty pricing or be subject to a UK injunction.

In contrast, several Chinese cases seem to have rewarded forum shopping for courts deemed friendly in defining royalty rates. These cases were initiated without an underlying action for patent infringement, bringing jurisdiction into question, and the ASI preventing legal action in other jurisdictions was clear interference with the judicial power of other jurisdictions.

For this reason, some US courts have ignored Chinese injunctions. In one case, Samsung v. Ericsson, Judge Rodney Gilstrap of the Federal District Court of Texas  “affirmed that the use of ASIs is to be considered an interference with the administration of justice in other countries and with regard to companies over which there is no jurisdiction.” The judge ignored the Chinese injunction, in turn issuing an "Anti-Interference Order”.

Note that after the court ignored the ASI, the parties settled on appeal. In this fashion, the court acted as a facilitator in getting the parties to negotiate, which is always the preferred method of setting a royalty rate.  

ASIs as a delaying tactic 

The panelists then positioned ASIs as another form of hold-out that “generates a distortion of the market that damages the entire innovation ecosystem.” In particular, ASIs are damaging because they deny patent holders access to the courts and the ability to prosecute unauthorized users of their patented technologies. Holdout also discourages and penalizes willing licensees by increasing their production costs as compared to competitors who hold out.

Once again the concept of public interest was take into consideration. Chinese courts, the panel argued, set low rates because they “believe it is in the interest of the market to keep the cost of innovation and technology as low as possible.” Then they counter that “public interest isn’t just about having a low price;  public interest is to have an improvement in our daily lives through increasingly improved and sophisticated products. In order to achieve this, huge investments in R&D are required.”

Noting the increasing prominence of Chinese manufacturers, the panelists observed that “ASIs are therefore emerging as a tool used by some national courts, and in particular Chinese courts, to defend the interests of their own industries. They can even be seen as state aid or an unfair trade practice that are not allowed by international trade treaties such as the WTO.“

Fortunately, the authors observe, there is room for optimism. For example, in Sisvel v. Haier, the court ruled that the alleged licensee must act proactively to reach an agreement with the patent holder within a reasonable time. In Interdigital vs Xiaomi, the Regional Court of Munich ruled that requesting an ASI evidences a reluctance to negotiate in good faith. This positions the party as an unwilling licensee that loses the right to a FRAND defense and may be subject to an injunction. As observed by the authors, “If other courts were to adopt this strategy, this would have a strong disciplinary effect on many counterfeiters, who would be much more cautious before requesting an ASI.

ADR to solve FRAND disputes and avoid delaying tactics 

Having detailed the various problems with ASIs, the panelists proposed arbitration and meditation, collectively called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), as the solution. Panelists agreed that ADR delivers faster decisions at much lower cost, and the ability to consider large patent portfolios in different jurisdictions. In addition, they don’t set a legal precedent -- they only bind the parties who can resolve the dispute confidentially without creating any conflict between different national jurisdictions.

The panelists also identified some drawbacks of ADR, though most have workarounds. For example, arbitration can’t invalidate patents. though it can delegate the task of assessing the validity of SEPs to an international patent authority such as the EPO. In fact, in a recent pilot study, the EPO has expressed its opinion on the essentiality of patents.

Despite the advantages presented, the panelist agreed that ADR has yielded limited results as alternatives to judicial disputes before national courts. As in the other article, they urged Standard Setting Organizations (SSOs), Competition Authorities, the courts, and other government institutions to promote ADR.

The article identifies one very positive step that was taken by the Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB), an international SSO, that recently published a Memorandum of Understanding encouraging members to settle license disputes through arbitration. The panelists called on Competition Authorities to request arbitration from the SSOs, and for courts to construe the refusal to arbitrate as a sign of unwillingness.

Despite the promising steps, the panel concluded that “For the well-being of the entire innovation ecosystem, it’s important that licensing agreements are primarily concluded without resorting to litigation. However, at present, arbitration cannot be imposed and therefore the consent of the parties or a contractual clause is required. So, to date, the choice of arbitration remains unfortunately rather limited.”

For additional information, please read the full articles:
Anti-suit injunctions are a race to the bottom – and arbitration is the answer (pdf)
The Phenomenon Of Anti-Suit Injunctions And Extraterritorial Implications (pdf)

How You Should Think About Patents and Royalties

It’s easy for those with only a casual knowledge of standards-based technology development to consider patents and royalties a harmful and unfair “tax” on the companies that sell products based upon those standards. But understanding how standards like Wi-Fi are created delivers a completely different view. Patents and royalties aren’t a tax on the system; they’re the fuel that powers the system.

Let’s start with a quiz. Assume you’re at the airport in a crowded lounge, or maybe in a conference hall. Your notebook computer is connected via Wi-Fi and you’re about to make a critical video call, but notice other folks around you doing the same thing. Your main concern is (choose one):

A.    I hope this call goes through and looks and sounds great.
B.    I hope royalties on the Wi-Fi router aren’t excessive.
C.    I hope royalties aren’t being paid to a non-practicing entity (NPE).

Hold that thought.

How Standards are Created

Though the standard-setting process varies among organizations like MPEG and the IEEE, most follow this basic structure. The process starts with a functional requirements document that, as the name suggests, defines the technical requirements for the new specification. Relating to our quiz, the key functional specs for Wi-Fi 6 were improved efficiency and throughput in high-density Wi-Fi environments, like airports or conference halls.

Once the functional requirements are set, individual members in dozens or hundreds of companies submit “technical contributions” to meet these requirements. This is a competitive process as different companies propose different technological approaches. Movement through the process is driven by individual voting members. In the IEEE group that sets Wi-Fi standards, as generally in standard-setting bodies, members vote to add technical contributions to the specification framework, adopt the specification into a draft, and approve the draft.

Member companies submitting technical contributions can be retail product manufacturers, chip vendors or other component vendors, telecom operators or pure research companies funded through product royalties. Or a combination of these. Technical solutions contributed to standards are almost always patented, which means they are highly innovative and involve substantial development, testing, and refinement.

These technical contributions are designed and developed by highly skilled professionals working in an extremely competitive environment driven by the voting process. Their charter is to create patentable technologies that solve key requirements of the specification. They’re the ones who make your video call a success or a failure.

Of course, not all technical contributions are accepted. Contributors often propose several solutions for every technical problem, but eventually only one is integrated into the standard. So, the companies employing these talented developers must fund the development of multiple inventions for each that’s integrated into the standard. This requires substantial investment.

Deploying the Standard

Once a standard like Wi-Fi is complete, it contains the best-in-class of multiple proposals from dozens of companies. Component vendors build chips that implement the standard and product manufacturers integrate these components into retail products that are sold to businesses and consumers. Products that implement the standard pay royalties back to companies that contributed technology to the specification, either bilaterally, or through patent pools that combine multiple contributors.

About These Royalties

A few things about these royalties. First, companies build products around standards-based technologies because the development process ensures that the standard will include the most effective technical solutions for achieving the requirements of the new specification. Deploying the standard allows them to remain competitive with other manufacturers and ensures that their products are compatible with all others that use the same standard.

Second, because of how standards are created and documented, companies who implement the specification can easily find out who the contributors are and that patents were actually deployed in the specification. The expectation of royalties is not a surprise; it’s a well-established component of the technology innovation ecosystem.

Finally, to ensure that patent holders don’t abuse the leverage that a standard gives them, royalties associated to standard-essential patents must be Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND). While opinions will certainly vary about what’s reasonable, FRAND is an established legal concept that both patent-holders and implementors can rely on in court. That said, by far the majority of patent licensing agreements are hammered out via negotiation, not by judges or juries.

How You Should Think About Patents and Royalties

Now back to our quiz. Your main concern is (choose one):

A.    I hope this call goes through and looks and sounds great.
B.    I hope royalties on the Wi-Fi router aren’t excessive.
C.    I hope royalties aren’t being paid to a non-practicing entity (NPE).

The correct answer is obviously A. The Wi-Fi 6 development process ensures that, if your laptop and the local router both support Wi-Fi 6, you have the world’s best technology delivering your call.

Should you care about royalties? No, because they’re baked into the standard-setting and implementation process that brought us Wi-Fi, cellular, and many other similar technologies. If the router costs a few dollars more to deliver the best possible experience, it’s a reasonable price to pay. After all, innovation is a long and expensive process, it requires the possibility of reasonable returns to be worth pursuing.

Should you care if you’re paying royalties to a non-practicing entity? Why would you? At the end of the day, it’s all about the best technology to get your call through. And it’s irrelevant if that comes from a chipset manufacturer, a router vendor, a university, or a research shop.

So again, royalties aren’t a tax on the system; they're the fuel that powers the system. Eliminate or dramatically reduce these royalties and you remove the incentive that produced technologies like Wi-Fi and cellular in the first place.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

IEEE 2015 IPR Policy: Description and Operation

On February 8, 2015, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (“IEEE”) approved changes to the IEEE Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policies that defined Reasonable Rates for royalties relating to/in respect of future IEEE standards and restricted the availability of injunctive relief.  This is the first in a series of articles that will explore the 2015 policy and its impact on standards-essential patents licensing.

This article will provide some background and detail what the new policies say and do. The next articles will discuss other relevant aspects of these new policies.

About The IEEE and SEPs

By way of background, the IEEE is a standard-setting organization that has set multiple standards for technologies like Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and many others. During the formation of such standards, IEEE participants submit technical contributions that accomplish the particular technical goals of the standard. If these contributions are included in the standard, any patents that cover them are designated Standard Essential Patents or SEPs. We give an overview of how the standardization process works in this article.

Recognizing that patents provide a right to exclude, organizations like the IEEE request SEP Owners to commit to making available licenses on Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory, or RAND, terms—“FRAND” (Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory) is a more European version of the term (while RAND is mainly used in the US), but the two are essentially synonyms and often used interchangeably. Worldwide case law also provides guidance on what RAND entails. What’s unique about the 2015 IEEE IPR changes, which are available here, is that for the first time for any standards-setting organization, the IEEE defined what a “Reasonable Rate” computation should consider (see page 2 of this redlined version). The IEEE also limited the availability of injunctions (see page 4, line 146).

IEEE requests Licensing Assurances from patent holders

In terms of operation, the new policy kicks in when “the IEEE receives notice that a [Proposed] IEEE Standard may require the use of a potential Essential Patent Claim.” Once received, “the IEEE shall request licensing assurance, on the IEEE-SA Standards Board approved Letter of Assurance (LOA) form, from the patent holder or patent applicant.”

So, if a standard includes a potential essential patent claim, the IEEE can request licensing assurance. Once this request is received, the patent holder has four options:
  • Deny awareness of Essential Patent Claim
  • Submit LOA committing to
    • License Essential Patent Claim on royalty-free terms, or
    • License Essential Patent Claim with reasonable royalty, or
    • Refrain from enforcing Essential Patent Claim
  • Submit “negative LOA,” declining to give any assurance as to licensing intentions
  • Not respond
Now let’s explore the definitions of “reasonable rates” and restrictions against injunctive relief.

How the 2015 IPR Policy defines Reasonable Rates

According to the updated IPR policy,

“[D]etermination of such Reasonable Rates should include, but need not be limited to, the consideration of:
• The value that the functionality of the claimed invention or inventive feature within the Essential Patent Claim contributes to the value of the relevant functionality of the smallest saleable Compliant Implementation that practices the Essential Patent Claim.
• The value that the Essential Patent Claim contributes to the smallest saleable Compliant Implementation that practices that claim, in light of the value contributed by all Essential Patent Claims for the same IEEE Standard practiced in that Compliant Implementation.
• Existing licenses covering use of the Essential Patent Claim, where such licenses were not obtained under the explicit or implicit threat of a Prohibitive Order, and where the circumstances and resulting licenses are otherwise sufficiently comparable to the circumstances of the contemplated license.

Restrictions against Injunctions in the 2105 IPR Policy

This provision reads as follows;

“The Submitter of an Accepted LOA who has committed to make available a license for one or more Essential Patent Claims agrees that it shall neither seek nor seek to enforce a Prohibitive Order based on such Essential Patent Claim(s) in a jurisdiction unless:  the implementer fails to participate in, or to comply with the outcome of, an adjudication, including an affirming first-level appellate review, if sought by any party within applicable deadlines, in that jurisdiction...”
Future articles will analyze this provision in more detail. For now, one prevalent view is that “Because the revisions place strict limitations on an SEP holder’s ability to enforce its patent rights against infringers, they truncate the upper range of the distribution of bilaterally negotiated RAND royalties and thus unambiguously reduce the compensation that the SEP holder may obtain for its technological contributions to the IEEE standards”. Also, most authorities agree that “This proposed IEEE IPR policy appears contrary to case law and administrative actions that have considered the availability of injunctive relief for standard essential patents and universally agree that injunctive relief should be available against unwilling licensees.”

Letters of Assurance

Once the patent owner receives the request for licensing assurance, it has the four options detailed above, which include not responding. If they choose to respond, the Letter of Assurance Template is available here. Here are the key options in the document.

IEEE Letter of Assurance
Section 1 of the IEEE Letter of Assurance Template.

Here’s a quick summary of the four options, a - d.

a.    The patent owner agrees to license without compensation, with the option to require a reciprocal agreement from the licensee.
b.    The patent owner agrees to license according to the new definition of Reasonable Rates as discussed above, with the other options shown.
c.    The patent owner agrees not to enforce the patent claim for Compliant Implementations of the technology.
d.    The patent owner is unwilling to grant licenses under a or b, or to agree to c. This is called a Negative Letter of Assurance.

In its September 10, 2020 letter to the IEEE, the US Department of Justice noted that "Since the Policy went into effect, reports show that negative assurances—those in which a technology contributor declines to give a RAND assurance—have increased significantly, comprising 77% of the total Wi-Fi Letters of Assurance at IEEE between January 2016 and June 2019. As a result, in 2019, the American National Standards Institute—a leading nongovernmental body that accredits US standards—declined to approve two proposed IEEE standards amending the 802.11 Wi-Fi standard." This development indicates that the changes to the IPR policy in 2015 did not find consensus among members of IEEE. Rather, probably as a consequence of the composition of the IEEE SA Board (the IEEE’s governing body responsible for modifications to the IEEE-SA Standards Board Bylaws which contain the IPR policy) back at the time, the changes were approved despite internal criticism.

Foto di aymane jdidi da Pixabay


Overview of SEPs, FRAND Licensing and Patent Pools

Sisvel is proud to support the track on SEPs of the LESI Thought Leadership Program, a professional learning series organized by LES International.

LESI Thought Leadership Program wants to be a “deep dive” on three topical areas such as:

  • Standard Essential Patents (SEPs)
  • Automotive
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). 
Organized and facilitated by licensing industry experts, the Program want to lead and inform on intellectual property policy and the tactical use of IP assets.

Out of the webinar “An Overview of Standard Essential Patents” held on October 25, 2022, with the participation of:

  • Gustav Brismark (moderator), Owner, Kazehara AB, previously Chief Intellectual Property Officer at Ericsson.
  • Mattia Fogliacco, President, Sisvel International
  • Carter Eltzroth, Legal Director, DVB Project, and Managing Director,
  • Matteo Sabattini, Director IP Policy, Ericsson, and LES USA & Canada SVP for Standards.
  • Richard Vary, Partner Bird & Bird, previously Vice President and Head of litigation at Nokia.
the following article published on the March ed. of LES Nouvelles was co-authored by all the speakers.

The main take-away points discussed in the article are:

  • A Standard Essential Patent, when subject to a FRAND commitment, does not create a dominant position
  • The IPR Policy of the SDO (together with the SEP holder’s declaration) establishes the FRAND obligation
  • Licensing of Standard Essential Patents can be subjected to drawn-out negotiation, gamesmanship, and litigation
  • Licensing of SEPs through a Patent Pool offers significant procompetitive efficiencies
  • SDOs recognise the value of Pools covering their Standards: the experience of DVB
  • Over time, Courts have clarified the scope of good faith negotiations; the nature of FRAND royalty promise; the availability of enforcement
  • This framework applies even at a time of growing complexity through convergence of new industries

The full video of the webinar is available at the following link.


Sisvel listed amongst the IAM Strategy 300 Global Leaders

Sisvel is delighted to be listed in the 2023 edition of IAM Strategy 300 Global Leaders, which since its inception showcased the top experts in the IP world. 

Founded in 1982, Sisvel is one of the longest-running and still active companies operating in the licensing field. A key element of the company’s success is its ability to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing licensing market; we follow the evolution of IP regulations closely and propose licensing solutions, which strive to facilitate technology adoption and reduce friction that might otherwise hamper licensing transactions. A recent example of Sisvel’s creative approach is the Licensing Incentive Framework for Technologies (or LIFT), a new royalty scheme that eliminates the competitive disadvantage that might come with being one of the first companies to take a licence. Initially applied to WiFi 6, Sisvel is confident that LIFT will substantially help to foster the creation of a level playing field.

A deep understanding of technology is another necessary element for succeeding in this business, as the landscape is continuously evolving, becoming increasingly complex. Sisvel Technology, the R&D branch of the group, represents a competitive asset for the company. With its own research laboratories and team of engineers working on innovation and IP development projects, Sisvel Technology provides technical assistance to the group on IP matters and also supports new business activities. Its engineers provide leading services on IP rights, such as evaluation of the coverage and scope of patent portfolios, validity assessment and development of customised testing equipment to provide evidence of patented technology infringement.
Sisvel’s highly experienced management and its independence as a licensing administrator are other key factors that contribute to recognise the group as a valuable partner in the licensing ecosystem.

Read the full interview to Mattia Fogliacco, President of the Sisvel Group.

5 of Sisvel top managers have been listed by IAM amongst the 300 World’s Leading IP Strategists.

Mattia Mattia Fogliacco
 President at Sisvel Group
 Ranked in Licensing, Valuation

IAM Says:
Mattia Fogliacco is a “world-class licensing professional” who has cracked the code of IP value creation. He has a gift for driving efficiency in licensing, in turn helping innovators optimise their technological development processes.
Read Mattia’s full profile.
NIck D Nick Dudziak
 Head of Strategy & Licensing Programmes at Sisvel Group
 Ranked in Brokering, IAM/IC, IP management consultancy, Legal, Licensing, M&A, Technology transfer, Valuation

IAM Says: An assured leader and deal-maker, Nicholas Dudziak has practised in virtually every dimension of the patent industry. As a result, he is highly innovative in his thinking and is not afraid to push the boat out when developing and implementing new strategies.
Read Nick’s full profile.

Thomas Thomas Roessler 
 Head of New Business at Sisvel Group
 Ranked in Brokering, Licensing, Valuation

IAM Says:
Thomas Roessler’s IP career spans investment, data, technology transfer and other roles. Thanks to his diverse experience, he brings a compelling blend of business, finance and patent expertise to the table.

Sven Sven Törringer
 Director at Sisvel Group
 Ranked in Defensive patent aggregation, Legal, Licensing, M&A, Technology transfer

IAM Says: A former Ericsson in-house counsel, Sven Törringer leverages both his technical chops and unrivalled IP experience to manage complex IP issues across the APAC region with tremendous success.
Read Sven’s full profile.

NIck W Nicholas Webb
 Head of Licensing at Sisvel Group
 Ranked in IP management consultancy, Licensing

IAM Says: Nicholas Webb performs flawlessly as a lead negotiator; his ability to manage global licensing matters, bring parties together and close top-dollar deals is scarcely rivalled.


Wi-Fi 6 pool’s progress update

Sisvel launched the Wi-Fi 6 pool in July 2022 with great fanfare, also because of an innovative new payment scheme called LIFT.
Now just over five months in, we caught up with pool manager Andrea Rombolá and asked about progress to date. 
1. We're 5 months out now - what's been the response to the pool?
  • The reaction to the pool’s launch has been enthusiastic. After the first phase, when public announcements were made to present the pool itself and LIFT, we contacted dozens of Wi-Fi 6 implementers (more than 200 as of today, but many more are to come as the technology gets increasingly adopted), offering a license.
  • An astonishingly high percentage of them engaged with us, welcoming the valid alternative this pool was offering. It may seem too optimistic, but facts confirm our perception: the pool can already count several licensees, including the founding members, that decided to adopt LIFT in their license agreement. They clearly wanted to be the first!
2. Why do you think the response has been so positive?
  • First of all, the reputation of the patent owners and their contribution to the development of the technology is a tremendous asset. Other factors are the quality of the pool’s patents – which the ongoing technical discussions are unveiling as we proceed with them – the competitiveness of the license offer, the LIFT payment scheme, and the potential to resolve the patent owners’ ongoing litigations through a pool license. All of this makes this pool very attractive to both patent owners and implementers: an effect that we perceive daily in our licensing discussions.
3. What is LIFT again?
  • A lot has been written about it: in short, it is a new royalty payment scheme, where payments are made according to the license penetration. It eliminates the competitive disadvantage that might be caused by being one of the first companies to license a new technology, incentivising early adoption.
  • Under LIFT, royalty payments are adjusted based on the percentage of the market that is licensed. LIFT is not a discount scheme though: if only a small portion of the market is licensed, most of the liability is deferred (not waived) until competitors actually pay. What isn’t paid immediately is added to a basket of unpaid liability which is also paid in accordance with the market penetration and is discounted and depreciated over time. You can read more about it here and here

4. What have you heard from licensees about LIFT?
  • We explain LIFT several times a week; people want to know how it works and the concrete benefits it delivers. It would be a lie to say that explaining LIFT is effortless: to provide a balance between the needs of implementers and innovators, the mechanisms of LIFT needs many elements that drive some complexity, but its benefits are real, and the perception of tangible advantages by implementers is helping us overcome the challenges.
  • We continuously provide explanations, some of them high-level and some more detailed, Excel models, flow charts, …. We are doing everything we can to help people understand it and interiorize it. And, little by little, we are winning potential licensees over!
5. Are you hearing from new patent owners to join the pool?
  • We are, yes. Several patent owners contacted us starting from the day after the launch. There are few leads that we are confident we will be able to conclude in the next few months, which is great. More patent owners increase the reputation of the pool, and benefit all technology implementers: taking this pool license means getting a set of rights which is ever expanding, and those who already signed up for this license are enjoying this benefit.
6. What’s next?
  • The latest big step has been the publication of the first version of the patent list on our website, which just happened. As we explained at the launch, it took time for the evaluation process to achieve an acceptable level of completion. The list now includes over 200 patent families and 1400 patents.
  • Naturally, this list will keep increasing due to new evaluations identifying new list members, and we will periodically update it to reflect this. The publication of the patent list was the last missing brick to make this pool’s license offer truly and fully transparent: our licensing operations can now continue moving additional steps forward. We expect to see many licensing deals concluded in the coming months.

Photo from g. p. by Pixabay 

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