Lacking Market Share, These Telecom Giants May Flex Their Patent Muscle

Envision IP analyzed the US patent portfolios of Ericsson, RIM, Nokia, and Alcatel-Lucent to understand if these companies are poised to leverage their patents against the likes of Apple and Samsung.

ericsson

Maulin V. Shah and S. Farhan Mustafa

November 28, 2012

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Ericsson filed suit against Samsung, alleging that Samsung infringes patents “involving GSM, GPRS, 3G and LTE mobile phone standards.”  Also, Reuters reported today that RIM lost a dispute over the use of Nokia patents, in a case which could halt the sale of RIM products if a licensing agreement between the two companies is not reached.

Envision IP analyzed the patent portfolios of former telecom titans Ericsson, Nokia, RIM, and Alcatel-Lucent to understand how the patents of these companies stack up against each other, in terms of volume, innovation, and strength.

Amongst these companies, Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia have the largest US patent portfolios, with about 16,000 patents each.  Ericsson owns almost 11,000 US patents, while RIM owns a fraction of its competitors US patent holdings with roughly 3,500 patents.

Within these patent portfolios, about 25% of Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia’s patents have claims focused on various wireless technologies.  Both Ericsson and RIM’s patent portfolios are more heavily focused on wireless technologies, with approximately 50% of their patents having claims focused on the same.

ALU, Nokia, RIM, and Ericsson US Patent Portfolios Comparison

Furthermore, while Ericsson claims to own 25% of standards-essential LTE patents, Alcatel-Lucent owns more than double the number of LTE-related US patents than Ericsson.  Nokia also has a significant number of LTE-related US patents with 1280, not too far behind Ericsson’s 1664 US patents.  RIM, with only 269 LTE-related US patents, has by far the least of the group.

In addition to the volume of US patents, we also analyzed the forward and reverse citations to understand how fundamental and strong (from a litigation perspective) these patent portfolios are.  Ericsson and RIM’s US patents have the highest number of average reverse citations per patent, with 48 and 58, respectively.  While certainly not conclusive, this data suggests that Ericsson and RIM’s US patents stand a higher chance of surviving an invalidity challenge, and thus, are stronger on average than Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia’s US patents.

ALU, Nokia, RIM, and Ericsson US Patent Citations

Ericsson’s US patent portfolio also has the highest number of average forward citations, with 45 citations per patent.  Alcatel-Lucent has the next highest number of forward citations with an average of 21 per patent.

While Ericsson does not have as many US patents as Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia, it appears to have very fundamental patents that may also be stronger than its competitors patents.  This data supports Ericsson’s assertion that is owns 25% of all standards essential LTE patents, as its US patent portfolio as a whole appears to be more fundamental to the technology than those of its peers.

Furthermore, Ericsson’s latest patent infringement suit against Samsung may indicate a future trend amongst these former telecom giants, each with patent portfolios having unique advantages (RIM – strength, Ericsson – innovation; ALU & Nokia – volume), as they look towards their patents to drive new revenue from existing technologies.

 

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