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Cover your 4G LTE legal arse for just 79p per mobe

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A second patent pool is now open for business and touting licences to anyone making devices featuring next-gen mobile broadband LTE. It's hoped this will simplify the design process and make LTE devices cheaper, eventually.

The new pool comes from Sisvel, which bought 350 essential telecommunications patents from Nokia earlier this year and has combined those with properties from EADS, the China Academy of Telecommunication Technology and France Telecom among others. It is asking for €0.99 per handset to use the protected designs, which is a bargain compared to the $3 Via Licensing is billing for its aggregation of intellectual property.

Patent pools, formed when companies get together to license their tech rather than sue each other into oblivion, are essential to most modern technologies: the ownership of something as simple as the MP2 codec is still covered by more than 500 patents (a similar number have expired) spread across 14 companies, so anyone creating MP2 software will be pleased to know they can license them all in one go from the MPEG LA patent pool.

The MPEG LA was in the frame for an LTE pool at one point, but seems to have dropped out of the running for the moment, leaving Via Licensing and Sisvel to recruit intellectual property holders and remind everyone that the patents they manage are "essential" - meaning that it is impossible to make a device complying with the LTE standard without paying the requisite fees.

Most manufacturers will end up paying both fees, although they are generally able to go direct to the patent holders instead, ideally engaging in some patent trading rather than cash payments. Sisvel's purchase of Nokia's LTE patent pile precludes that.

The essential patents are also covered by fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) agreements, which require them to be licensed in a tolerable fashion and this is generally what the pools do.

More damaging are patents owed by companies not signed up to FRAND and yet end up being "essential" to a communications standard - such as those owned by IPCom which continues to battle Nokia for licence fees.

IPCom has no interest in FRAND or cross-licensing as its stated business model is to squeeze all the money it can from the patents purchased it from Bosch. Sisvel and Via Licensing are both trying to reduce the complexity of patent negotiations, although their rates and portfolios do demonstrate how intellectual property makes up an increasing proportion of the price we pay for our toys. ®

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