IoT and patent filing

IoT in patent litigation: Future trends and awareness

Indian companies need to take into account the issue of patent litigations that may arise due to the increased adoption of IoT

Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most discussed technologies right now. The global industrial sector is poised to undergo a fundamental change akin to the industrial revolution as we usher in the IoT space. It has the characteristics to fundamentally change the world as we know it. In simpler words, IoT refers to the use of sensors and communication technology embedded into the physical objects, which enables them to communicate over the Internet.

Analysis of Internet of Things data is supposed to offer new and deeper insights for various application areas. Companies are aggressively competing with each other in intellectual real estate to file patents in the IoT sector. Exploring the patent trends, we observed that for IoT, the key foreign corporates like Samsung, Qualcomm, Nokia, Ericsson, LG, etc. top the ladder in terms of filing patents in India. A few Indian origin companies like Wipro, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), HCL Technologies, etc. are also making it to the top of the list.

IoT goes hand in hand with 5G – after all, one generates data, and the other transfers the data at greater speeds. The year 2020, is the year we expect 5G to begin, and it is inevitable that IoT will adapt to the new features that it will bring. The promise of 5G is that of ubiquitous, scalable and cost-effective communication for the next generation of use cases in consumer IoT and industrial IoT.

Few industries where 5G and IoT together can bring about disruptions are, for example, self-driving autonomous cars, healthcare, logistics, smart cities, retail, etc. One of the technologies that is gaining a lot of mindshare is self-driving autonomous cars. Autonomous cars generate a huge amount of data through their arrays of hundreds of sensors and all of this is sent to the cloud for further analysis.

The consolidation of IoT with 5G is anticipated as a convergence of different sectors by IP experts – as the patents reside with companies operating in different sectors. As an example, the ownership of 5G patents may reside with telecom companies such as Huawei, Ericsson, etc. However, IoT devices will be manufactured by other sectors. Such IoT device makers that use 5G/4Gspectrum to transfer the data may face a lot of challenges while using 5G. As a specific example, an automobile (IoT device) using 5G for sending data might infringe on some standard-essential patents owned by Huawei – in other words, an automobile maker may need a license from a telecom company before launching the vehicle with IoT capabilities in the market.

Currently, there is a consortium called 5G automotive association (5GAA) that includes auto makers and OEMs like Audi, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and SAIC joining this global initiative and includes the network vendors like Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, Infineon, AT&T, Intel, Samsung, etc. 5GAA will be central to the development of 5G connected vehicle services, being involved in the strategy of cellular V2X services by influencing standardization regulatory and industry bodies in spectrum allocation and certification. 5GAA will include certification and approval processes required for the deployment of future connected mobility solutions.

While the auto sector seems to be the one envisioning this entire scenario well ahead of time, other sectors may not be as quick to internalize the changing landscape and patent wars may just be round the corner when these telecom giants come to enforcing their hard-earned patents. The unbalanced alignment of patent portfolios among newly aligned competitors will likely lead to a disparity in licensing leverage and increased litigation.

It remains to be seen how different industries will converge to tackle the patent issues, but our analysts predict to see an increasing number of patent litigations as the fifth generation network inches closer to seeing the light of the world. Since India is also becoming a hot-bed for IoT as well as 5G based filing, it might soon find its troops marching towards the litigation war.

Amit Aggarwal, co-founder and director, Effectual Services

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