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Ericsson sets up patent licensing marketplace for industrial IoT

One of the risks to the future of unified platforms to support the Internet of Things is the fragmentation of standards and intellectual property. Organizations from a wide range of vertical industries are contributing to the underlying systems, along with web and communications players, but while this is creating rich innovation, it also raises the question of how patents licensing will be managed.

Ericsson has stepped forward, creating a virtual licensing platform which it wants to establish as a dominant ‘independent’ mechanism for coordinating IPR across many areas of IoT standards, as they relate to connected devices for vertical markets.

There are all kinds of ironies about one of the bastions of the mobile industry’s tightly closed standards and patents structure setting itself up as the guardian of IoT licensing processes. But Ericsson increasingly wants to place itself at the center of the IoT web, offering services and coordination between many different segments, and its licensing platform is just another example of that. Ericsson also sees the new organization as a useful channel to market for its own patents.

Its system will licence standardized technology for the industrial IoT to device manufacturers to encourage the growth of the ecosystem and reduce the risks for companies entering the space. There will be a revenue sharing model for those contributing patents, and those organizations will avoid the cost and complexity of managing their own licensing. There will be flat per-unit licensing fees for the verticals, designed to reflect how much of the connectivity technology a device uses, said Ericsson.

The new organization will be headed up by by Kasim Alfalahi, who will leave his current role as Ericsson’s chief intellectual property officer to run the new platform. “We are initiating this marketplace following discussions with both wireless industry players and key players in industry verticals,” he said.

The Swedish company’s CEO, Hans Vestberg, said: “Under Kasim’s leadership, Ericsson has established a leading position in the IPR licensing market. As more and more industries embrace connectivity and the Internet of Things, it is crucial that essential technology is accessible and that innovators continue to get fair returns on R&D investments.”

In its latest Mobility Report, Ericsson predicted that there would be 28bn connected devices by 2021, of which 15bn will be connected M2M or consumer electronics products.

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