Patent pools pushed in new agreement

IEEE's collaboration with Via Licensing will encourage intellectual property holders to form patent pools in order to get more products into the market.

Stephanie Condon Staff writer, CBSNews.com
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.
Stephanie Condon
2 min read

IEEE, a professional organization for the advancement of tech, is announcing on Monday a collaboration with Via Licensing to foster the development of patent pools based on IEEE standards.

San Francisco-based Via administers licensing programs for intellectual property owners.

patent image

The two-year pilot program is the first of its kind between a standards developer and a licensing administrator, said Via and IEEE.

The collaboration will encourage intellectual property holders to establish joint licensing programs through which they can offer streamlined royalty rates and licenses for all of the patents in the pool.

"What it means if you're an implementer is you have a one-stop shop to get all the licenses you need to develop a product," said Edward Rashba, director of new business ventures for IEEE, which stands for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The IEEE entered the agreement with the goal of getting more products based on its standards into the market, Rashba said. Via, for its part, will apply its regular administration fees to any patent pools arranged with the IEEE. The specific terms of the deal are confidential, though both entities will take on some costs of the project, and a small percentage of Via's returns will flow back to IEEE.

"What we've been hearing from our members is the need to...help implement standards on the marketplace...and getting these pools together will be a very powerful approach to make these products more successful," Rashba said. "We feel we have the opportunity to address some of the key challenges facing the technology industry."

Those challenges include navigating overlapping IP rights, dealing with multiple IP holders and different prices, and facing the increased risk of costly patent lawsuits. The uncertainties surrounding licensing can delay products from going to market.

Jason Johnson, vice president at Via Licensing

These problems have spurred varying solutions, like the "defensive patent aggregator" business model adopted by RPX, a new company that buys up patents with the intent of providing them to its member companies, which pay an annual fee anywhere from $35,000 to $4.9 million for RPX's services.

Patent pooling is not a very common way around the maze of licensing complications. There are only about a dozen high-profile patent pools, eight of which are administered by Via, according to Jason Johnson, Via's vice president of marketing and business development.

Via, a subsidiary of Dolby Laboratories, is currently developing an Ultra-High Frequency Radio Frequency ID patent pool for members of the RFID Consortium.

While Via will facilitate negotiations with participating companies, the IEEE's role is "building awareness," Rashba said. The organization is likely to suggest the patents, for which standards were recently developed, that may be appropriate to include in patent pools.

Johnson said it is hard to anticipate how successful the program will be because developing a patent pool can take one to two years.

"If we get one formed at the end of two years, I think everyone will be excited," Rashba said.