The progressive implementation of 5G networks is going to change drastically from telecommunications to areas as important as mobility, medicine and industry. This revolution is based on a system, that of patents, which was born at the end of the Middle Ages, by the hand of kings and pontiffs, and which has evolved to this day, allowing the protection of innovations in all fields of technology.
The essence of the system does not change – if there is innovation, there is an intellectual property that must be recognized – but the pace of the so-called fourth industrial revolution, linked to data, is causing everything to be rethought. Advances are no longer linear, but exponential and consecutive: internet, social networks, geolocation, artificial intelligence, internet of things, quantum computing … At the same time, technologies no longer work in silos, but in a hybrid way. The consequence is clear: connectivity can only result from a collective effort in which patents are accessible under reasonable conditions.
We are going into a new era, and we cannot be anchored to the methods of the past, even if they have been very efficient.
Manuel Desantes, Professor of Private International Law and former Vice President of the European Patent Office
“We are going into a new era, and we cannot be anchored to the methods of the past, even if they have been very efficient,” explains Manuel Desantes, professor of Private International Law and former vice president of the European Patent Office. At the same time, “intellectual property, and specifically patents, are key to fostering innovation”, highlights Miguel Ángel Puente, a patent engineer at the Ericsson R&D center in Madrid. Therefore, the challenge is to encourage innovation, in open environments and at an enormous speed, while recognizing and protecting the role of companies and individuals that find new solutions and services.
A new generation for a new world
5G unleashes an environment more focused on open innovation, which allows the hybridization of technologies, for example combining 5G with Artificial Intelligence. “Patents have to be put at the service of society, and with that mentality they have to be granted. You cannot prevent everyone around you from innovating because you have a patent, ”says Desantes. That is why telecommunications companies moved from an old world of exclusion to one of collaboration and competition, for the best use by the whole industry of a system with a huge number of patented innovations. Just as an example, a company like Ericsson has 57,000 granted patents.
A ‘classical’ conception of patents – an inventor or a company patents an advance and exploits it exclusively – would make the technological development of 5G, which is based on the connectivity and interoperability of systems, products and services by companies, almost impossible. competitors, coming from very different cultures. So that all devices and all networks can talk to each other Regardless of the companies behind it, the telecommunications industry has developed a new governance for patents, capable of combining protection and incentives for innovation with the agile arrival of technological advances on the market.
An organism named after a ‘Star Wars’ robot, 3GPP, is a key part of this system. Created in 1998 for the development of the 3G network, it is formed in turn by seven telecommunications organizations and hundreds of companies as members, which determine the technical standards of the different developments.
Ericsson, which has been researching the possibilities of 5G since 2011, has secured about 20% of the essential patents for this technology
A fundamental tool of its work are the so-called SEP, by Standard Essential Patents. They are essential patents, that is, the innovations that have managed to become part of the standard that the entire industry has to use.
European 5G leadership
In the case of 5G, Ericsson, which has been researching this new telecommunications network since 2011, has achieved about 20% of essential patents (SEP), according to a study by researchers David Edward Cooper, Johanna Dwyer and Alexander Haimovich. The leadership position of the multinational of Swedish origin is key for the EU to be the leading territory in 5G innovation, measured by the number of essential patents, surpassing technological powers such as South Korea, China and the United States.
Once 5G innovation achieves essential patent status, what has been called the FRAND agreements, an acronym for Fair, Reasonable and Non Discriminatory, come into play. It is a very different system from the traditional one, since, as Desantes points out, the inventor no longer defines the price, and loses the exclusivity of his innovation, as long as he is compensated under FRAND conditions. In return, it can access innovations from others, and the entire industry, and in the second instance the whole of society, benefits from the system. It is a scheme that conforms to a world “of open innovation”, sums up the former vice president of the European Patent Office.
“5G is a new animal, a totally different paradigm,” says Puente. It is no longer based on the improvement of previous networks, determined in turn by a mentality inherited from fixed telephony and Internet, but on new use cases, such as autonomous vehicles and remote surgery. But this new paradigm also needs a network that protects innovation, without protection meaning exclusivity. Protection, patents, become the previous step for standardization, closing the virtuous circle that goes from the idea to the final product.