AT&T, Clearwire, HP, NTT DOCOMO And Others Join Via Licensing’s LTE Patent Pool

Via Licensing, a fully owned subsidiary of Dolby Laboratories, today announced that ten major players in the mobile industry have banded together to join the organization’s new patent pool for standard essential LTE patents. The companies that will offer their patents for licensing through Via’s LTE pool are AT&T, Clearwire Corporation, DTVG Licensing, HP, KDDI Corporation, NTT DOCOMO, SK Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and ZTE Corporation. This Via-managed patent pool, the company says, “significantly reduces the risk of litigation for those organizations that are building products or services based on the LTE standard.”

The fact that Via was working on putting this patent pool together wasn’t a secret in the wireless industry. Most pundits, however, expected about 20 companies to be part of the initial batch of participants. As Via president Roger Ross told me yesterday, however, the company expects that other organizations will join the pool and he is confident that the number of partners will increase quickly over the next few months. Among the names that are obviously missing here are the likes of Qualcomm, Nokia, LG, Samsung and Motorola, all of which own a considerable number of LTE-related patents.

Via isn’t ready to talk about the licensing costs at this time, but Ross told me that Via will offer a “very reasonable rate for the level of IP available through the pool.”

“We are delighted to have been able to participate in a truly collaborative effort from a broad spectrum of industry players to provide one-stop shop access to LTE standard essential patents that the pool provides,” said Dr. Toru Otsu, the Managing Director of Intellectual Property at NTT DOCOMO in a canned statement. “We feel confident that the pool will play a huge role in accelerating growth of the LTE ecosystem by meeting both the needs of licensors and licensees.”

Others, of course, have tried to offer similar LTE patent pools in the past, but these efforts never quite worked out. Now, however, Ross believes, things are different. Not only is the Via pool starting out with ten patent holders who are committed to making this project work, but LTE itself is also at an inflection point where the market is clearly taking off. Another factor that makes patent pools like this one almost a necessity for the LTE market is the widespread diversity of IP holders.

Because these are standard essential patents, it’s worth noting, the patent owners also commit to making their IP available to others for a reasonable fee. Instead of having to manage the licensing of their IP themselves, the partners in the new LTE pool will rely on Via to handle the accounting (which can quickly get complicated in this international business), reporting and licensing.