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Nokia flogs 350 vital mobile phone patents

Buyer Sisvel is throwing a 4G patent pool party - all invited

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Patent licensing outfit Sisvel has acquired 450 patents from Nokia, 350 of which are essential for mobile telephony, but despite appearances this is no desperate attempt to borrow cash from the future.

The patents include 350 which are considered "essential", in that it is impossible to create mobile phones conforming to 2G, 3G and/or 4G telephony standards without infringing them. But as such they are also subject to Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) licensing – hardly the sort of thing a patent troll would be interested in.

The confusion is understandable, and makes for a better headline. It also fits with the perception of Nokia as desperate company, prepared to raise money selling patents to a troll even if it has to license them back later, though that's a long way from the truth.

Sisvel is a patent-licensing company which doesn't make anything, so it can look like a troll acquiring patents with the sole objective of pursuing unwary infringers. The company did sic local police on exhibitors at CeBIT and IFA back in 2008 for infringing MP3 patents it administers on behalf of Philips, but despite that it doesn't fit the profile of a typical troll.

Sisvel is actually concerned with the creation of patent pools, dealing with fields where the myriad of patent-holders makes getting individual licences next to impossible. In such fields some sort of aggregator is not only necessary, but desirable.

So if you're planning to make a DVB-T set-top box, then you can go along to Sisvel and get yourself a complete licence package which Sisvel has negotiated with all the various intellectual property holders. The same thing applies to DECT, H.264 SVC and MPEG audio – to name just a few.

In many cases you don't even have to go to Sisvel for those licences – you can still strike deals with the individual patent owners if you so choose. The Nokia patents which Sisvel has now acquired already have numerous licensees, and those deals remain in place along with Nokia's own licence to continue using the patents.

Sisvel has been trying, in competition with Via Licensing and the MPEG LA, to put together a pool covering all the essential parts of the preferred 4G telephony standard, LTE. This is a significant step in that direction and good news for Sisvel, but if the company is a troll then it's a big friendly troll offering FRAND licences to anyone who wants one. ®

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