300 Granted US patent milestone

Today I reached the 300 granted US patent milestone.

It took close to 20 years to reach that milestone, since the first patent I was involved in was filed October 1998.

However, I’m a co-inventor of some 150+ more filed patent applications, and I’m aiming for at least 500 granted US patents :-).

If you or your organization are interested in learning more about the noble art of inventing and patent creation, I offer seminars about the innovation process and my own trade secrets on how to invent, create patents and become a prolific inventor, as well as patent creation workshops, helping your organization to boost your patent portfolio.

For contact information, see here.

The market value of a standard essential patent for 5G

A standard-essential patent (SEP) is a patent which claims an invention that must be used to comply with a technical standard, such as the 4G or the forthcoming 5G cellular communication standard. As I have mentioned in an earlier blog post  a company claiming to have a SEP has to agree to license the patent according to FRAND- fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms. However, what is the market value of a SEP for, say the forthcoming 5G (or NR) standard? The answer is;

The value for a 5G-NR standard essential patent is predicted (2020) to be 1 US cent (US$ 0.01) per 5G smartphone sold!

Below I will reveal how to figure that number out. Hang on.

How Many SEP will there be for 5G?

First of all, one needs to determine; how many SEPs there are (or more correct, will there be) for the 5G-NR standard? The way of determining whether a patent is essential to a particular standard, can be complex. In order to have a SEP, all parts of at least one claim in the granted patent need be possible to map to the standard. Hence, just for a company claim – for marketing purposes – having X SEP does not necessarily mean that they are actual SEP unless a deep analysis is made for respective of the X patents to see that they actually are possible to map to the standard.

Fortunately, from a recent finalized litigation between Ericsson and TCL in California, US, the FRAND rate for 2G, 3G and 4G SEP was determined . In this trial, the total number of standard essential patents for each wireless communication standard was estimated based on a quite detailed analysis. From the analysis one concluded the following total number of SEP patent families per 2G, 3G, 4G.

4G: 1481 families

3G: 953 families

2G: 265 families

As can be seen, the number of SEP increases for every new generation, mainly due to two things;

  1. The cellular communication standards cover wider scope for every new generation.
  2. The amount of companies involved in the standardization increases for each new generation (*), hence the total number of involved innovative persons worldwide increases, and that will increase the innovation and therefore the number of patentable ideas.

The 5G cellular communication standard will support new use cases, such as supporting ultra-low-latency applications (URLLC ) and massive MIMO on mmWave, and therefore becoming a wider standard than 4G. Hence, to predict the number, we use a first order linear extrapolation to estimate the number of 5G SEP. Then, one obtains the following estimate ;

5G: 2100 SEP families

5G FRAND rate

Next step is to determine the FRAND rate. Referring to the decisions in the Ericsson vs TCL trial again, the total royalty rate for 2G and 3G SEP was 5% and for 4G 6% of the smartphone sales price, hence a bit higher for smartphones supporting  the latest generation. We assume that the FRAND rate for 5G, when smartphones are out on the market 2019-2020, will be a bit higher (more advanced technology and hence higher R&D investments), say 7%.

5G smartphone market value 2020

OK, how to predict the worldwide smartphone market value 2020? Some googling gives that the worldwide smartphone revenue for 2017 was $ 478 Billion, and a total of  1.5 Billion smartphones was shipped. That gives an average sales price of $318 per smartphone.

Estimates of the smartphone market 2020, indicates 1.7 Billion units shipped. I have not found any revenue estimates, but assuming a sales price corresponding to the average of the average sales price 2014-2017, (variation between $278-$318), giving an estimated sales price of $295, which rounded will be $ 300.

Now we have that

One single 5G SEP market value per smartphone 2020 (US $)= 300*0.07/2100=0.01. 

“QED”

That means, in case one has an approved standard essential 5G patent, the market value 2020 – condition on that you succeed to sign a FRAND license agreement will all smartphone vendors in the world –  will be …. US$ 17 Million…

This is of course a guesstimate with a lot of uncertainties, but the value might be higher, taking licensing possibilities for 5G Internet-of-Thing devices into account as well.

Anyhow, to conclude, if you are an inventor of a 5G SEP – be very proud – you have created significant business value for your company!

 

(*) According to the myths and legends within the 3GPP standardization, a famous 3GPP standardization delegate – and editor to one of RAN1 standard document – may have quoted:

“The number of standardization delegates participating on the 3GPP meetings doubles for every new cellular wireless communication generation”

The “Moore’s law of 3GPP”, is rumored to been shown at a conference in Sweden last year ? … so maybe the number of SEP per new G increase exponentially instead of linear as I have assumed, reducing the marketing value ….?

“Everything has already been invented”

Maybe you have heard the quote “Everything has already been invented”?

This quote was, according to the legend, stated by Charles H. Duell who was the Commissioner of the US patent office in 1899. However, there is a belief that he didn’t say so, but it may be a similar quote stated already 1843 by another Patent Office Commissioner, Henry Ellsworth – so there might be some truth behind the quote….

Anyhow, in the year 1900, approximately 25000 patents were granted  in the US, while 115 years later the granted rate was 300000 per annum (!). The number of patents has really exploded over the last 100 years, so stating that everything has already been invented today, will problably not be true either.

As a prolific inventor, whos main task is to find out innovative solutions to problems that might be patentable, you will however sometimes feel that;

“No, now I really can’t find anything new, I have made my last filing”.

However, if you are working in a creative environment, you will sooner or later find yourself in discussions with colleagues about new topics or new challenging problems that need to be solved, and from that, new ideas will pop up.

So don’t give up. The ideas will continue to come, you just need to show perceverance!

 

FRAND patents

As I have mentioned earlier, patents are business, and below I will describe one business model related to patents that is common in the area of wireless communication such as 2G,3G,4G and the forthcoming 5G standard. i.e. patent areas in which I have been heavily involved.

Let’s say that a company has invested money for research and development and comes up with a new technology that may fit into a certain technical standard such as the 3GPP standard (the organization developing the cellular communication standards, such as 4G-LTE, or 5G-NR). In order to propose the solution to the standard, operating according to FRAND principle, the company has to agree to license the patent according to FRAND- fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms. FRAND  denotes a voluntary licensing commitment that standards organizations often request from the owner of a patent that is essential to practice a technical standard.

Fair relates mainly to the underlying licensing terms. Fair terms means terms which are not anti-competitive and that would not be considered unlawful if imposed by a dominant firm in their relative market.

Reasonable refers mainly to the licensing rates. According to some, a reasonable licensing rate is a rate charged on licenses which would not result in an unreasonable aggregate rate if all licensees were charged a similar rate. A pragmatic way to see it; The total licensing cost for all licensees related to the FRAND agreement should not be more than a single digit percentage (<10%) of the products sell price. However, the exact value is negotiable between the licenser and the licensee, but this “total below 10%” gives the order of magnitude of the licensing cost.

Non-discriminatory relates to both the terms and the rates included in licensing agreements. As the name suggests this commitment requires that licensors treat each individual licensee in a similar manner. This does not mean that the rates and payment terms can’t change dependent on the volume and creditworthiness of the licensee. However it does mean that the underlying licensing condition included in a licensing agreement must be the same regardless of the licensee. This obligation is included in order to maintain a level playing field with respect to existing competitors and to ensure that potential new entrants are free to enter the market on the same basis.

This way of licensing patents according to FRAND gives the licenser possibilities to get the technology into the standard and by that get a reasonable return on investment for the development  of the technology, from those doing products compliant with standard, and at the same time the licensee get rights, for a reasonable cost, to a technology that it has not invested money on for its development.

Hence a win-win scenario.

 

Inventing and Patent Creation Increases Your Business Network

Inventing is in fact a fantastic opportunity for expanding your business network. Taking myself as an example; I have had over 100 different co-inventors over my 400+ filed patent career. My co-inventors originate from at least 28 different countries; Sweden, Norway, Finland, Great Britain, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Romania, Hungary, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Pakistan, India, China, Hong Kong, Iran, Bangladesh, South Korea, Canada, USA, Venezuela,  Australia and Morocco.

Furthermore, I have cooperated with more than 20 different patent engineers and, I guess, around the same number of  patent attorney firms in Europe and US and even more patent attorneys.

Working as an inventor in a smaller company it might be hard to get such high diversification in co-inventors and patent engineers/attorneys, but for sure, by starting to invent, you will enhance your business network which in turn will increase the opportunities in your further professional career.

 

Inventing is a teamwork

As a corporate inventor, one typically works in teams and therefore inventions may have several inventors. So, on average, how many inventors are involved in an invention? Well, this number is heavily dependent on the topic/subject, where it seems for my (by some quick Googling) to be more inventors on an invention in chemistry and medicine compared to wireless communication, my area of expertise.

But focusing on my own filed patents, the number of inventors on my patent applications span between 1 and 7, where the average is very close to 3. Furthermore, 2-4 is the most common number of co-inventors. Being the sole inventor is quite rare, and only around 10 out of 400+ I have been the only inventor.  This again it shows that creating inventions is a team work, where all people in the team are open minded and help improving the initial idea originated from some first discussions to become a brilliant patentable invention.

Method and apparatus for producing one invention per week over one year

How fast is it possible to invent? Is it possible to create one patentable invention per week, during one year? In 2007 I got a ”goal” by my manager to write one invention a week during a year.

Unfortunately, I didn’t succeed, but was close; during the 365 day period 2007-07-01 to 2008-06-30 I filed 51 patent applications. What I did to reach 51? I followed my 4 secrets on how to become a prolific inventor.

Important to note is that I should not have been able to file 51 without having colleagues and co-inventors to discuss the ideas with and (of course) without help by patent engineers and patent attorneys writing the application.

So: Is it possible to come up with one invention per week over a one year period? Yes, by working in an inspiring and innovative climate together with open minded colleagues and with good support from patent engineers and patent attorneys, and – of course – performing a lot of hard work ,  it is possible.

Which patent is you most proud of?

“Which patent is you most proud of?”, is also a question I have got several times. Among all 400+ filed it is a hard question answer, since it depends on what you mean. Some inventions are about really clever details requiring a lot of research to figure out, while other patents, still new and inventive, does not require “rocket scientist” education to figure out the solution, but are important from an business perspective.

But if I have to choose, one of my favorites from a cleverness point of view is (I’m sorry for the technical details, below)

US6725024 Offset local oscillator frequency

I was visiting Ericsson Research in Rayleigh, NC, US a week end of summer 2000, and discussed with some of my research colleagues there, about improving the performance of the channel estimator for the highest data rates in EDGE. It turned out that, with a low cost direct conversion receiver, the DC component introduced by the receiver and channel estimator severely limited the performance of EDGE in the mobile device implementation. Is it a way to achieve better estimation performance by doing something in the radio receiver? After some hours of discussion, we found the answer. By offsetting the local oscillator in the radio with some few kHz, different offset for different GSM/EDGE training sequences, channel and DC offset performance coming close to the Cramer-Rao bound (a measure on ho how good a channel estimate could be) can be achieved. We later on presented the results at a Conference as well.

  1. Hui, B. Lindoff and K. Zangi, Enhanced DC estimation via sequence-specific frequency offset, In the proceedings of 56th IEEE Vehicular Technology Conference (VTC 2002 fall), Vancouver, Canada, September 2002, p161-165, vol.1.

My first Patent

A question I often receive is; ”which was your first invention?”. Since it is the first, I have quite clear memories of it (compared to, say number filed application no 346 ?), and below I will say some word about the first one.

US 6101224 Method and apparatus for generating a linearly modulated signal using polar modulation

I started at the Research department at Ericsson Mobile Communication February 1998, as a fresh PhD graduate. At that time, only GSM was out there and data communication was made over GPRS with a maximum data rate of 9.6 kb/s. In order to increase the data rates for 2G, EDGE, enabling higher data rates in GPRS was being standardized and a new transmission method (8-PSK) was introduced in order to increase the data rate (up to over 100 kb/s).

Such new transmission method (8-PSK) has bad transmitter efficiency (high power consumption, which is a disadvantage for battery driven handheld mobile phones) compared to the modulation used in GPRS (GMSK), and encouraged by my first Manager and one of my colleagues, we developed a power efficient transmission method where one could re-use parts of the transmitter architecture optimized for GMSK modulation for 8-PSK modulation, where distortion introduced in the GMSK transmitter architecture is compensated for by modifying the amplitude component of the 8-PSK signal. The patent application was filed October 7th 1998, and first granted in US August 2000.

Writing the Background and Detailed Description

Having made the drawings and the core/summary of the invention, the most important parts of the disclosure are done, and below I will give some general thoughts about the background and detailed description part.

Background

I suggest you try to keep the background rather short. Try to only discuss the relevant background. Furthermore, in the background, also mention prior art (i.e. known technique) solutions to the problem (if there are any), and also mention potential problems with the prior art solution (too complex, too expensive, too power consuming etc.) so that you can argue for the need for your invention.

Detailed description

The detailed description part of the invention disclosure can be long and should – of course – be detailed. Here in the text you describe all the drawings in detail. Try to come up with as many possible solutions (embodiments) for the problem as possible. By showing, let us say, at least two explicit examples/ways for performing one step of the invention, the patent attorney then can use that information to make the scope of protection wider. Referring to the example flow chart, pseudo-claims in earlier posts, one can show two or more different methods for determining the compensation value, and the same for determination of the characteristic value.

I hope I now have given you some tips and tricks for being able to write good invention disclosures next time you have determined an invention. Good luck!