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les Nouvelles - March 2008


The Role Of Intellectual Property In Broadband Mobile Telecommunications At The Example Of 4G WiMAX

Tobias Kaufmann

ETH Zürich, IP Manager, Rhode & Schwarz, Munich, Germany

The conflict between intellectual property rights and standardization has become clearly visible with the examples of the second generation (2G) wireless GSM system and the third generation’s (3G) WCDMA and CDMA-2000 systems. Now, on the verge of standardizing fourth generation (4G) systems, the mobile telecommunications industry has become highly sensitive to issues resulting from the ownership of a standard’s essential patents. Mobile WiMAX, which is expected to form part of future 4G systems, is said to be offering a vendor-neutral patent landscape since it is based on new radio access technology, allowing no company to leverage its existing position into WiMAX. Based on the theoretical and historical context of IPRs in mobile telecommunications, this paper establishes a framework encompassing six factors to evaluate the role of IPRs in broadband mobile telecommunications. The factors include analyses of the number of essential patents, the patents’ fragmentation, the business models of the involved companies as well as external influences. This framework is applied to analyze the present 4G WiMAX standard, and the findings suggest that the supporting arguments may turn out counterproductive with WiMAX suffering from high transaction costs as well as weak competitiveness.

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