It’s important to remember why we’re here. The development of global standards, easily implemented by companies that can use a common set of specifications for rolling out products and services, has been the key to the growth of the cellular handset industry, and resulted in the elimination of barriers to entry for new players and tremendous value for consumers. InterDigital, along with others, has been an important contributor to that process.
How important? In studies by third-party analysts we’re aware of since 2012 that have evaluated the share of patents and applications that are likely essential to 3G and/or 4G standards, InterDigital appeared in the top 4 among patent holders more than 70% of the time – among the highest percentage of any company, with InterDigital’s share of likely 4G SEPs ranging from 7% – 10% and its share of likely 3G SEPs averaging close to 10%.
The 5G standard is at an early stage, with only the first release having been finalized. Standards generations generally involve several releases (for example, seven in the case of 4G-LTE). InterDigital’s total patent count for 5G NR is already close to its total patent count for 4G-LTE, and is expected to grow substantially with subsequent releases and continued research. According to the ETSI Special Report dated November 25, 2019, InterDigital’s ETSI-disclosed patents and applications accounted for approximately 6% of all ETSI-disclosed patents and applications that ETSI categorized as 5G.*
InterDigital’s overall portfolio, and specifically, our portfolio of wireless patents and applications, is among the largest in the world. As of December 31, 2019, our overall portfolio included almost 32,000 patents and applications worldwide. Regarding key cellular standards, our count of patents/applications (and corresponding families) disclosed to ETSI with respect to various standards is as follows:
|Families||Issued Patents and Pending Application|
In wireless, new standards are built on the shoulders of older generations. Not every element of a new standard is entirely new. As a result, many technologies are carried over from one generation to the next, resulting in a patent footprint on a device that builds as generations advance and devices maintain backward compatibility. The following chart shows our cellular wireless patent footprint based on the type of device.
Mixed-mode indicates devices that are backward-compatible to previous generations of cellular wireless.
For those interested, a search for “InterDigital Holdings” at http://ipr.etsi.org should produce our recent disclosures, as we currently submit our disclosures under the name of InterDigital Holdings, Inc. Historical disclosures were submitted under the name of the holding company that owned such disclosure. A list of our various patent-holding subsidiaries is available on our Form 10-K annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and available in the “Investors” section of our website.
InterDigital’s portfolio extends well beyond cellular wireless. The company has for years participated in development of other wireless technologies, most notably the 802.11 family of Wi-Fi wireless standards. In addition, through our own research efforts and those of the Technicolor Research & Innovation team we acquired, InterDigital is a major holder of patents related to a variety of video standards. Of these, HEVC is the most popularly deployed current standard in handsets. As of December 31, 2019, InterDigital held approximately 1,300 patents and applications related to Wi-Fi, and approximately 2,000 patents and applications related to HEVC. Of note, these numbers represent patents and applications resulting from WiFi- and HEVC-focused research and development activity, respectively, and are not directly comparable to the numbers listed above for 3G, 4G or 5G.
* InterDigital expresses no views on the accuracy or completeness of the data in the ETSI Special Report and notes that the data may include patents and applications that have been abandoned or have expired. InterDigital aggregated the ETSI data to combine all of InterDigital’s current affiliates and further excluded patents and applications that InterDigital has transferred to non-InterDigital entities, both as of January 2020.