Marconi women in IP: innovation, collaboration and solution-driven

For World IP Day 2023, which has a focus on women and IP, we celebrate some of the women at Marconi, who are working in careers accelerating innovation and creativity in IP. In this article, Bing Zhao, our Asia Communications Manager, profiles three of her colleagues from around the globe.

The world of intellectual (IP) exists at the intersection of two traditionally male-dominated areas: law and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). While education and practices in the two spheres may have their own challenges, individual organizations which operate in the IP sector certainly have the power and responsibility to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for women in IP.

As a leader in creating solutions to simplify patent licensing and facilitate technology sharing, Marconi has built a global team, spanning time zones and cultures, to be close to our customers both in diversity and geographically.

Marconi women across three continents have contributed tremendously to our success, with their unique and valuable perspectives. We’d like to introduce you to three of them and let them share their stories of working in IP.

Marianne Frydenlund
Oslo, Norway

Marianne has been interested in pursuing an interdisciplinary career combining technology and law since she graduated from law school. Her first encounter with intellectual property was observing a supplier in the oil industry who customized a generic product to fit their client’s specific requirements, which led to inventing new solutions that could be patented.

Her involvement in IP deepened during her tenure as Senior Vice President, Legal and Compliance at a Norwegian chipset and module manufacturer. She saw that there was controversy around indemnification in the supply chain, together with challenges in addressing the subject in distribution agreements. She spent a year renegotiating the company’s distribution agreements, which began a journey of SEP education with potential customers. This created opportunities for the company to collaborate creatively with patent owners, setting it apart from many other module manufacturers.

During those years, Marianne spoke with numerous IoT implementers of all sizes, concluding that the IoT industry would benefit tremendously from simple and efficient joint patent licensing solutions provided by independent platforms. That realization led her to join Avanci, where she is currently leading and developing innovative licensing solutions for IoT beyond automotive.

“Making industry led solutions is not a walk in the park, it is more like an ultra-run!” For our programs to work, we need to listen, contemplate, and understand considerations and priorities from both sides in order to find a solution representing a compromise to be endorsed by industries. “The size of these puzzles we are trying to piece together is perhaps what makes it feel even better when we succeed. Being inspired and encouraged by how my colleagues have found a successful solution for the automotive industry through the Avanci Vehicle platform, I am very optimistic for my IoT programs.”

Besides finding an industry solution, Marianne is also very passionate about mentorship for women, saying “as women, we should support and lift each other up.” This is exemplified by her deep involvement in the Norwegian community, mentoring young girls to explore technology and advance in IP and legal careers. “I feel grateful to have a great female manager who guides and supports me. We need to be good role models for other females in the company and in the industry.”

Marianne believes that challenge is key in cultivating strength and happiness. “Human beings are generally happier if they have problems to solve. Overcoming challenges and solving problems offers a sense of joy.” If challenges are being disregarded or removed, we would not feel happier, most likely the opposite. “We grow, evolve, and develop through challenges, which is the case with my job. No two days are the same. I am having fun trying to find solutions for the industry, speaking extensively with IoT product companies as well as patent owners.”

Yui Mitsuta
Tokyo, Japan

Yui’s first awareness of IP started with anti-counterfeiting products. Prior to embarking on her career in a major Japanese technology company, she studied IP law and her interest in IP expanded into innovation and patents. One project which Yui was deeply involved in during her previous role meant working with Avanci from outside. The Japanese firm’s automotive business unit and its R&D had differing views on joining the Avanci Vehicle platform, which were ultimately resolved and resulted in the company becoming the first licensor with an automotive industry background to join Avanci Vehicle 4G. That experience of bridging business and R&D units was meaningful and memorable and is extremely helpful for her current role in Marconi, where she is a local interface to our Japanese partners.

She took great pleasure in developing and strengthening relationships with customers, in particular when helping licensees understand the benefits of our independent joint licensing platforms. “My support on the ground in Japan helps us and customers, which give me a great sense of joy and pride.”

A crucial but challenging part of operating a joint patent licensing platform is reliance on support from licensee and licensor partners. “It is almost impossible for us to complete a project by ourselves.” Admittedly, it is key to successfully establishing relationships and continuously nurturing cooperations.

Working in IP usually requires a combination of technical and legal skills. It takes time to harness and sharpen both skills. Women are gradually making inroads into this male-dominated fraternity, especially with a gradual rise of women IP leaders and inventors in the electronics sector. But female IP leaders and inventors are still rare in other sectors in Japan.

Yui sees the growth of patent licensing would bring more opportunities for women to be leaders in IP. She believes that women can have better instincts and more advantages in pool licensing, given that the latter requires more cooperation with others across a large group of companies, compared to bilateral licensing. In her experience, women tend to be more communicative, considerate, and collaborative.

Another appeal to hopefully draw more women into IP is the flexibility and freedom. “IP related work is fairly flexible, and it is not always restricted to working in a fixed location, so it is easy to keep work and life in balance.”

Maria Sekul
Dallas, US

Maria combines her extensive knowledge of patent office practice with in-house engineering experience to build and identify strategic portfolios. Starting as a software telecommunications engineer, Maria recounts that a 3G wireless R&D project introduced her to corporate IP patent strategy from an inventor perspective. She pivoted to patent law after finishing law school.

Her professional journey in IP started at the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) as a patent examiner, which she describes as the hardest job, but also the best experience. Subsequently, she moved to a boutique IP firm, gaining in-depth experience in patent prosecution as a patent attorney. This led to an in-house position at a company with a strong patent portfolio and successful licensing program, where patent prosecution and the assertion and monetization of IP were merged. 

This ultimately led to her role at Marconi, where she brings all that experience into play. As a registered patent attorney, Maria applies her technical expertise to patent application and prosecution, patent portfolio analysis and related matters.

“It’s interesting to understand the concepts and ideas behind the technology of future products and also get an insight into what the future holds,” says Maria. “That is particularly so with telecommunications, where IP is filed on inventions years before it becomes available to the public.” 

Though Maria has worked in a variety of roles, one thing remains constant – women remain dramatically underrepresented in the patent world. “There is definitely room for more women in IP, and especially patent attorneys. In other types of IP practice (trademarks, copyright, litigation), while you need a law degree, a STEM background is not required, and I do see more women practicing in those areas.”

Marconi was founded on a vision of transforming patent licensing, of doing things differently, of challenging accepted wisdom and conventional norms. As part of this, we recognize the value of creating a diverse workplace, one which reflects the diversity of markets and industries that we serve and of our customers around the world. As we continue to grow, we want to ensure that we explore diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives that can support our vision.

Marconi, together with its Avanci and Innovius businesses, is proud to have joined to support their programs and initiatives to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion within the intellectual property profession.

Licensor Spotlight: For WILUS, the best way to predict the future is to invent it

As part of a series of articles, we spotlight the innovation of another innovator in our independent Avanci marketplace, WILUS.


WILUS, which became an Avanci licensor in 2021, is a Korean powerhouse of technological innovation. WILUS develops advanced technologies for wireless communications and immersive multimedia services, and contributes its technologies to international standards, including for 4G & 5G communications (3GPP releases 13-18), next generation wireless LAN, and for broadcasting and audio/video codecs.

We recently spoke with two inventors from WILUS to learn more about their innovation journeys, their focus for the future, and their advice to anyone interested in a career in research and development.

Jin Sam Kwak is the founder and CEO of WILUS, as well as being a core inventor for the company’s 3GPP related technologies. Following a PhD in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science from Seoul National University in Korea, he spent a couple of years in the United States conducting research in wireless communications. He then joined LG Electronics, rising to be chief research engineer, and ultimately Sam left to found WILUS in 2012. Sam is a named inventor on more than two thousand patents and has made over a thousand technical contributions to standards development organizations (SDOs).

Minseok Noh is Principal Engineer at WILUS, and another core 3GPP inventor. After gaining his masters’ degree in electrical engineering from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), he joined LG Electronics, where he first met Sam. In 2012, Minseok joined KT, Korea’s leading network operator, as Chief Research Engineer, and then joined WILUS in 2015. Like Sam, he has spent much of his career as a delegate to SDOs, and is named on more than 400 patents declared to the 4G/LTE standard.

We asked both inventors what motivated them to follow a career in research and development.

For Sam, the world of mobile communications which was emerging while he was a student felt new and exciting. He felt driven to change the world through his knowledge and interest, and that “the best way to predict your future is to invent it” – a belief which ultimately became the company vision for WILUS.

Sam’s curiosity led him to post-doctoral research on topics such as multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) antenna solutions. Joining LG Electronics at a time when they were looking to grow a next generation of research leaders gave him the opportunity to lead teams of researchers and continue to develop his skills, as well as participating in the standardization process and organizations such as 3GPP, IEEE 802, WiMAX Forum, Wi-Fi Alliance and MPEG. All of this reinforced the value of standardization in sharing inventions with the world.

Minseok remembers being interested at graduate school in the transition from CDMA to OFDM communications, and was excited to join LG Electronics as a research engineer investigating those topics, including spending time as a visiting scholar at the University of Toronto in Canada. He was also active in standardization activities, as a delegate for 3GPP LTE Advanced projects at LG Electronics and KT. Currently, at WILUS, he is leading the 3GPP team for the development of 5G New Radio (NR) Advanced technologies. Together with the other WILUS experts, he is strongly convinced that the proliferation of next-generation standards technology will bring us new opportunities in the future.

In 2021, WILUS became a licensor in the independent Avanci marketplace, sharing its 4G technologies with Avanci licensees. Among the many 4G technologies which WILUS has created, and which are included in the Avanci license, are contributions to the LTE Advanced Pro feature. Sam reflected on the decision to join Avanci, noting that the company had considered the best options for licensing its SEPs and concluded that Avanci’s profile and proven success made it the best choice. The efficiency that WILUS gained by licensing through Avanci’s open and transparent marketplace, rather than engaging in bilateral negotiations with individual licensees, meant that they could continue to focus their efforts on breakthrough R&D.

Underpinning their strategy is a close integration between the company’s inventors and their patent attorneys. They are physically co-located, a difference from many R&D organizations, and patent filing and prosecution is managed by an in-house team, led by Hyunju Son. Sam credits this for the establishment of a strong portfolio of patents, the monetization of which enables the company to continue to invest in new research.

Looking to the future, WILUS inventors, including Sam and Minseok, are working on evolved capabilities for 5G communications, including 5G New Radio (NR) Air Interface and 5G Advanced capabilities such as Sidelink / Coverage Enhancements and Flexible Duplex communications for Release 18. With the global commercialization of 5G, WILUS is striving for 5G Advanced to enable and bring out the new application and capabilities for end-to-end 5G networks and new devices & services such as immersive extended reality (XR).

In closing, we asked both inventors for their advice to young people at the start of their working lives, who may be considering research as a career. Sam believes that most young engineers want to change the world in some way, that they should find topics that they are really interested in, and of course, to participate in standards development work! For Minseok, he remembers that when he started his career, he had very little knowledge of the specialist areas he was asked to focus on. His advice is that you must persist, don’t give up, and that anything worth doing is usually very hard work at the start.

Licensor Spotlight: Driving 5G transformation, China Mobile seizes new opportunities through innovation

As part of a series of articles, we spotlight the innovation of another of the patent owners in our independent Avanci marketplace, China Mobile. This has been translated and adapted from an original article published by in China.

At the forefront of developing 5G technology and industry, China Mobile has been busy building and operating 5G communications networks, creating a new information infrastructure underpinned by 5G, Compute-First Networking (CFN) and Smart Mid-end Platform, with the aim of building a new information service system featuring Connectivity + Computing power + Ability.

To scale up 5G private networks and advance industrial digitalization, China Mobile was the first in the industry to release 5G Private Network Technology System 2.0. Additionally, it enhanced the network’s capabilities by leveraging 5G LAN and TSN, and improved access control capabilities by utilizing NPN and Secondary Authentication. It has also strengthened its service carrying capacity and expanded its 5G private network capabilities.

Huanqiu’s reporter spoke to Li Nan and Hu Nan, deputy heads of the China Mobile Research Institute’s Department of Wireless and Terminal Technology. Li and Hu shared their insights on the development of 5G technology and their experience of technological innovation.

Li Nan
A culture of innovation is an important driver that leads to multiple patents and standards

“Since joining the China Mobile Research Institute in 2007 after graduating, I have been engaged in research on and the international standardization of 4G, 5G and NB-IoT. I’ve also participated in the research of 6G technology. Now, I am working on technology research, standardization and industrialization in the field of wireless cloud networks,” Li Nan said.

Li finds his research motivation in China Mobile’s corporate culture, which champions responsibility and excellence, as well as its mission of Creating an Infinite Communications World and Becoming the Pillar of the Information Society. It’s what drives him to explore cutting-edge communications technology. After joining China Mobile, Li was excited to be engaged in standardization work. As one of the first representatives of the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), an international standards development organization, Li took part in formulating TD-LTE and 5G standards and the R&D of international standard-essential patents. His participation enabled him and his team to work with the best researchers in the industry, and to witness first-hand the application of their self-developed solutions and standards in products and networks. These valuable experiences helped them create and deliver value, and also serve as a source of inspiration for him and his team.

“I have spent over 10 years working on forward-looking wireless technology research and standardization since joining the company in 2008. In this period, I have been involved in the formulation of 4G- and 5G-related standards and the development of patents and international standard-essential patents,” Hu Nan said.

“Innovation is in our DNA. We are keenly aware of the importance of innovation for our development, and even for the whole industry’s growth. For example, when working on a carrier aggregation project, we recognized that being independent in terms of carrier aggregation is essential for LTE and 5G NR—it took us over five years to finish the overall closed-loop R&D from technology R&D and test verification to the launch of international standards and commercial application on a larger scale. During this period, my team encountered various setbacks, but the entire project’s deliverables were completed. This accomplishment is inseparable from China Mobile’s emphasis on standardization and continuous input. More importantly, these patents can help the communications industry develop sustainably prosperously,” Hu added.

Hu Nan

With V2X and IoT development speeding up, 5G is driving the continuous transformation of related industries

When asked by the reporter about 5G’s development trend and the application of 5G technology in the fields of V2X and IoT, Li said that V2X and IoT represent the most cutting-edge and widespread industry applications when it comes to 5G application scenarios. He believes that as the technology matures and costs decrease, 5G, a vital technology in a connected world, will grow explosively.

The general nodes of IoT are powered by traditional 2G and 4G technologies. For power-line inspections and other industrial scenarios, which require excellent latency and reliability, and industry application scenarios such as high-rate uplink transmission, 5G is the optimal choice, pointing to the technology’s tremendous market potential. In addition, as 5G technology continues to evolve and mature, it will also become commonplace in smart wearables and other IoT applications.

With the Internet of Vehicles, the application of 5G technology to autonomous driving will transform people’s mobility experiences. Autonomous driving is also bound to create new safety, reliability, latency and group communications requirements. The combination of 5G and positioning technologies such as BeiDou and GPS, as well as vehicle-to-vehicle sensor interoperability technology, could serve as the foundation that underpins autonomous driving, thus further enhancing safety and efficiency.

Li also believes that ever-maturing autonomous driving technology will in the future free drivers’ hands and help to create new in-car entertainment scenarios, leading to new business, which will in turn create new 5G application scenarios and markets.

Avanci partnership enables technology inventions to empower global markets

In January 2019, China Mobile joined one-stop licensing platform Avanci, where it can license its global patent portfolio of 2G, 3G and 4G standard-essential patents in the IoT market. Speaking on China Mobile’s partnership with Avanci, Hu said that Avanci enabled IoT industry players to access the vast majority of wireless communications standard patents through a single agreement, thereby contributing to the rapid application of wireless communications technologies.

In the past three years of cooperating with Avanci, China Mobile has gained a platform to promote its patented technologies globally and also placed a greater emphasis on its own R&D, allowing it to share its scientific and technological innovations with global industry partners. More than 40 world-renowned automotive brands now license China Mobile’s wireless communications technologies through Avanci, covering more than 65 million licensed connected cars on the road around the world.*

“The partnership with Avanci is a new initiative for China Mobile to explore IoT patent licensing rules and models. China Mobile joined forces with Avanci with the intention of helping the IoT industry reduce patent litigation risks, eliminate barriers, promote synergies between the IoT industry and wireless communications technologies, and drive high-quality development,” concludes Hu.

* Updated numbers since the original article was published

Licensor Spotlight: Panasonic innovates to enable Society 5.0 and a connected future

In 2017, Panasonic was among the first patent owners to join the Avanci marketplace. A long-time leader in technology research and development, Panasonic has been involved in standardization in the communications arena since the formation of the 3GPP, and its engineers have participated in thousands of 3G, 4G and 5G standardization meetings across the globe.

We recently spoke to two Panasonic experts involved in developing technologies which are licensed through Avanci, to understand their personal stories as researchers and inventors.

Akihiko Nishio has had a 22-year career in Panasonic. He worked initially on 3G modem development, moving in 2003 to focus on research and standardization work for LTE and LTE-A. He then spent several years in a business division, developing smart home systems, using knowledge and experience from his work on cellular standardization.

In 2019, Nishio-san returned to the corporate R&D team to work on 3GPP standardization now for 5G, also working on 5G enhancements for non-terrestrial networks using satellite communications, more recently becoming project leader for technologies beyond 5G, including 6G. To date, he has been the first named inventor on more than 600 granted patents.

Ayako Iwata joined Panasonic in 2003. Her research in communications began as a student, when she did laboratory work with a researcher from a mobile communications firm, which motivated her to change track from her initial interest in fiber communications.

At Panasonic, Iwata-san is involved in 3GPP standardization, and since 2008 has been actively involved in the RAN1 working group, which is responsible for the development of specifications dealing with LTE-Advanced, 5G NR, and beyond. Her research in 3GPP began with Relay in Release 10, a feature based on both base station and user equipment. She was involved in research on control channel technologies for LTE Advanced and 5G, winning an award from Japan’s Technical Committee on Radio Communications Systems (RCS) in 2009. She is currently researching 5G technologies including Sidelink, a part of vehicle to everything (V2X) communications which will be important for connected vehicles and other IoT devices.  She is named as first inventor on over 300 patents and patent applications.

For both inventors, the motivation to choose a career in communications research came from their university studies, where they spent time in the laboratory investigating elements of communication. They both joined Panasonic to be able to continue to research in this area, at a company that led the Japanese market both for mobile phones and network infrastructure and was contributing to the development of international communications standards.

Both have been active in the work of 3GPP in developing technology standards and have experienced the rigorous way in which each element of the standard is selected through submissions from delegates from various companies such as themselves which undergo thorough technical evaluation. Nishio-san remembers many discussions that went past midnight in the search for the best solution from many submissions, and both have experienced the excitement of having their own submissions selected by the expert working groups after months of effort. They feel proud to know that they have contributed to defining standards that are used in many different products from a wide range of companies around the world, helping to transform people’s day to day lives.

Their colleague Yoshinori Nakagawa from Panasonic’s intellectual property department outlined Panasonic’s reasons for joining the Avanci marketplace. As the company’s business evolved and they exited the handset market in 2013, a pivot to monetising IP in part through licensing was a way to continue to share Panasonic’s innovations and fund future R&D, leveraging their team of expert inventors.

Auto makers are important partners for Panasonic across their business, and so they wanted to expand their licensing activity in a way that auto makers felt they could benefit from. Panasonic believes that Avanci offers an efficient way for auto makers to license the technologies used in their connected vehicles, while offering a fair return for patent owners such as Panasonic.

Panasonic also believes that the Avanci marketplace also offers a way for auto makers to reduce the risk of litigation from patent owners, bringing together many patent owners under one license at a fixed royalty rate, ensuring a level playing field. In addition, they feel that the Avanci patent assessment process, which uses a global network of independent evaluators to ensure essentiality of submitted patents, is another strong feature of the Avanci marketplace, also benefiting their wider licensing efforts beyond automotive and IoT.

Looking to the future, the team sees plenty of opportunity for Panasonic research and development. They expect to continue as an active contributor to communications standards development for 5G and beyond. In video codecs, an important technology for a company with so many market-leading video products, they see continuing research in H.266/VVC as fundamental to achieving more efficiencies in streaming more video content of ever higher resolution. And for a company with many automotive partners, the development of autonomous driving technologies for self-driving vehicles will also be important.

All this builds towards the Japanese government’s vision of Society 5.0. This reflects an ambition for the connected society of 2030 and beyond. which balances economic advancement with the resolution of social problems through a system that highly integrates cyberspace and physical space. Enabling this vision will be technologies including self-driving vehicles, industrial robotics, and smart surveillance cameras, all of which will rely on leveraging data gathered from images and the environment to automate many everyday tasks. Panasonic intends to be an active participant in the R&D needed to realise the vision of Society 5.0, using its valuable IP to help it and others to deliver on the vision.

In conclusion, we asked each inventor for their advice to any young person considering a possible career in science or research and development. Iwata-san would enthusiastically encourage them in such a path, from her own experience it can be a very satisfying career, leveraging an enquiring mind to identify a range of alternatives and then working to identify which is best for all parties, whether individual users or society as a whole. Nishio-san agreed; he believes that there is not always one right answer to a research problem, and that R&D is a great career option for anyone who enjoys thinking about possible solutions to problems and applying critical thinking skills.

Panasonic DigitalPanasonic Digital & AI Technology Center in Yokohama, Japan

Licensor Spotlight: DOCOMO drives future standards through commitment to innovation

In the latest of our series of articles, we spotlight the innovation of DOCOMO, another of the licensors in our independent, Avanci marketplace.

One of the world’s largest mobile operators, DOCOMO is at the forefront of driving the evolution of wireless technology and creating the Internet of Things, with a long history of contributing to the development of wireless communications standards. In October 2018, DOCOMO joined the Avanci marketplace as a licensor.

We recently spoke to two DOCOMO inventors about their work – what inspires them to create fundamental technologies and their thoughts on future developments in the mobile communications work.

DOCOMO R&D Center, Yokosuka, Japan
DOCOMO R&D Center, Yokosuka, Japan

Akihiro Higashi has worked for the company for more than three decades. His interest in mobile communications was sparked early on and he gained his amateur radio license when he was just 15 years old. He joined NTT from university in 1987 and began his research career on digital mobile communications, at a time when most networks were still analogue. When NTT DOCOMO was created in 1992, he moved to the new business to continue research on Wideband CDMA (W-CDMA) networks, working on technical harmonization within Japan and also working with several European companies. DOCOMO’s W-CDMA was ultimately adopted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as a standard and it is also part of the UMTS 3G standard.Following the formation of the 3GPP, Higashi-san participated in further standardization efforts for a couple of years, before moving from the research organization to the terminal development section, where he was responsible for commercializing three types of W-CDMA terminals during 2002.

With more than 80 patents to his name, he moved to DOCOMO’s intellectual property department in 2003, where he was involved in establishing the ‘Platform W-CDMA’ patent pool with other patent owners, such as, Mitsubishi Electric and Siemens. In 2010, he was among five NTT DOCOMO inventors who were recognized for their achievements by the Japanese Institute for Innovation and Invention. Since 2012, Higashi-san has been supporting DOCOMO’s patent licensing activities as a technical expert on W-CDMA and HSPA (High Speed Packet Access).

Lan Chen is President and CEO of DOCOMO Beijing Labs, where she leads the lab’s research on 5G evolution and 6G physical layer design, as well as on artificial intelligence including natural language processing and computer vision. Inspired by the early mobile devices that were beginning to appear when she graduated from high school, Dr. Chen decided to study mobile communications. Following her first degree in China, she studied for her master’s and PhD in Electronic Engineering at Kyoto University in Japan. After completing her PhD, in 1999 she joined the DOCOMO R&D Center in Yokosuka to begin her research career, focusing on wireless systems design for 4G/LTE.

DOCOMO Beijing Laboratory, China
DOCOMO Beijing Laboratory, China

In 2003, Dr. Chen returned to China to help setup DOCOMO’s Beijing Laboratory and for the next 10 years she served as director of its Wireless Systems Lab, leading the LTE research team. In 2013, she spent three years working on radio access network development, particularly for new functions of base station design. In July 2016, she returned to the research organization in her current role. In addition to being named as lead inventor on more than 130 patents, Dr. Chen has received external recognition from both the ITU Association of Japan and the Future Forum of China.

We asked both inventors about some of the key innovations that they had been responsible for, which have become essential patents licensed through the Avanci marketplace.

Higashi-san remembered that in early 1990s, Qualcomm published an IEEE paper on CDMA (which eventually became standardized as IS-95), outlining a technology that could achieve more user capacity than existing analogue or second-generation digital networks. As Japan’s leading mobile communications company, NTT DOCOMO saw a need to create a system that had more capacity and flexibility than IS-95 and began research on technologies that were ultimately standardized as W-CDMA.

One such innovation which he worked on was a novel approach to realize asynchronous systems between base stations. While IS-95 used GPS, DOCOMO wanted to be independent of the US government owned system. He and his colleagues began researching the use of longer scrambling codes to achieve asynchronous systems, though such an approach meant a longer synchronization time. Their innovation aimed to speed up the process of synchronization between base stations and terminals when they were first powered on, to improve performance for users.

He recalled long hours in the lab, using a lot of computer simulations to prove the potential of the system. Computers of that time were considerably below today’s performance, and their simulations required writing a lot of programs from scratch, which made it even more challenging, but after much effort, they were successful and their inventions became part of the W-CDMA standard and were widely adopted in the industry.

Dr. Chen’s 4G research focus was on improving the quality of experience and service for users. She identified that one area for focus was radio resource management for reducing interference between cells, so that the data rate for users could be improved. In 2001 she proposed and filed patents on an approach for intercell coordination, a novel idea which was hard to implement at the time. With progress in the network and the processing capability of base stations, several years later, multi-cell coordination was adopted as an optional feature in release 11 of the LTE standard.

Research can often feel an isolated activity – we asked both inventors how it feels when an invention that they have been responsible for is adopted into standards and then used by others in their products. Higashi-san felt proud of DOCOMO’s achievements with W-CDMA and said he felt very fortunate to have had such a broad career, from his early days in research, through commercialization of products to his work now in supporting DOCOMO’s patent licensing business.

Celebrating the DOCOMO Beijing Laboratory’s 18th anniversary.
Celebrating the DOCOMO Beijing Laboratory’s 18th anniversary.

Dr. Chen feels a sense of achievement and satisfaction when her patents are certificated as standard essential and licensed by other companies. She reflected that, in the DOCOMO Beijing Labs, research work does not end with the publication of academic papers.

The team works to further refine their results to meet the requirements of LTE-A, 5G and 5G Advanced and then work with other companies through the standardization organizations to reach consensus and finally have the patented technology become standard essential patent (SEPs). She feels that researchers at DOCOMO recognize the significance of what they do, contributing to the improvement of people’s lives around the world, as well as providing a financial return to DOCOMO through licensing which in turn helps to ensure the sustainability of the company and their research.

On the topic of licensing, their colleague Yuichi Nakamura from the intellectual property team reflected that DOCOMO has supported patent pooling for many years, including through their efforts with W-CDMA, as pools can offer efficiency and transparency in the sharing of innovation with others. However, he noted that pool licensing in the smartphone market had been challenging, as it was difficult to get larger patent owners to join. By comparison, with Avanci, their efficient and transparent approach has solved the problem faced by others and led to the inclusion of patent owners including Ericsson, Nokia and Qualcomm. This gave DOCOMO confidence that the marketplace could be successful and so they joined Avanci. They believe that having a single platform with a large number of licensors actively engaged gives Avanci a strong advantage and has helped in attracting many auto brands as licensees.

Discussion turned to the future, and the areas which are a focus for further research. Dr. Chen outlined that DOCOMO Beijing Labs continue to focus on 5G Advanced, with Release 18 anticipated in 2022. Beyond that, her team is already working on 6G research in two dimensions – extreme high capacity and extreme wide coverage, including space, air, and sea in addition to terrestrial mobile communications. Across all these domains will be the growing importance of artificial intelligence.

Finally, we asked what advice the experts would have for young people considering their career path, perhaps who are interested in the future of communications. Higashi-san reflected on the importance of following your own interests – from his early days as a radio ham to a 30+ year career at DOCOMO, his curiosity for the topic of mobile communications has never diminished.

Dr. Chen echoed this and outlined what the future holds. 6G will contribute to the wellbeing of society, enabling the fusion of the cyber and physical worlds. Many new use cases will emerge, based on the evolution from 5G and AI and sensing, which will not only enhance user experiences, but also improve the quality of life and the efficiency of society. For those who want to help build a new and a wonderful society, she suggests following the brand slogan of DOCOMO Beijing Labs: “Live up to youth, Innovation never ends.”

From our fourth to fifth year, and from 4G to 5G

As we pass the fourth anniversary of announcing our first Avanci licensee, it seems appropriate to reflect on how much has changed, for Avanci and the auto industry, during the last four years.

We launched Avanci in September 2016, as an independent marketplace with a vision to transform how patent licensing is done. In previous roles and at other companies, our team had experienced the ‘smartphone wars’ and believed things should, and could, be different for the burgeoning Internet of Things industry. It was a lofty ideal, building a more efficient approach to licensing essential connectivity patents for an era which would see the convergence of several different industries, including automotive and telecommunications. But we also believed that we had the right team of experienced, industry professionals to make it happen, and were encouraged by feedback from patent owners and auto makers alike.

The inclusion of 4G connectivity to vehicles has benefitted both consumers and automakers. For the consumer, this incredible technology powers their vehicle’s infotainment and emergency call systems. For the vehicle maker, the technology enables wireless diagnostics, data collection, and over-the-air updates to the vehicle’s systems. Automakers can also offer a range of connected services which can enhance their customer experience while earning them incremental revenue. Connected vehicles are an undeniable win-win for consumers and OEMs and serve as the precursor to tomorrow’s autonomous vehicles.

All of these connected features are underpinned by communications standards such as 3G, 4G and soon, 5G. These open standards are the result of billions of dollars invested in research and development over many years by dozens of innovative companies, largely from the telecommunications sector. They contribute their inventions to the standardization process to enable the widespread adoption that we have already seen in the smartphone world. In return, they seek a fair return from companies which utilize those standards in their products and who reap further benefits from that groundbreaking R&D. Automakers and others have then been able to create their own innovations, leveraging the communications technologies but without having had to invest in the R&D to develop them.

When BMW became our first licensee in December 2016, we had 11 patent owners in the Avanci marketplace and we published our fixed licensing rates of $15 per car, a one time payment for the lifetime of the car, to cover all of the current and future  2/3/4G essential patents of all of the patent owners in the marketplace.

Since then, I’m pleased to say that much has changed for Avanci. We’ve grown to have 25 automotive brands under license for their connected vehicles, which include not just cars but trucks, buses and even construction equipment. Our original patent owners have expanded their portfolios, and more patent owners have joined our marketplace, which now spans 47 patent owners, collectively responsible for the vast majority of 2G, 3G and 4G essential patents.

But over those years, one thing has remained constant. The 4G licensing rate of $15 per vehicle, paid once for the lifetime of the vehicle. Avanci’s value proposition is as straightforward now as it was then, but arguably even more compelling. An independent, one-stop marketplace for standard essential 2G, 3G and 4G connected car patents from many of the world’s most innovative companies, made available efficiently under one license at a low, fixed prices. Already, automotive brands responsible for more than 25 million connected vehicles have taken an Avanci license, recognizing the value the technology brings and the efficiency and affordability of the Avanci model.

It’s important to note that the Avanci rate represents a market driven solution, the result of lengthy engagement between patent owners and auto makers when we established the marketplace. Unlike a traditional licensor-run pool which typically sets rates unilaterally, Avanci worked with both licensors and licensees to arrive at its rates. I suspect that if we asked some of our 47 licensors, they might say that $15 is a little too low, and perhaps some of our 25 licensed brands would say the price is a little high. But, having been involved in hundreds of deals and many mediations, I can tell you that when both sides acknowledge that compromises were indeed made, the sweet spot has been found.

We now stand on the brink of 5G in the auto industry, which will ensure that drivers will have an even safer and more enjoyable driving experience. For automakers, 5G will unlock new revenue streams, create a closer connection to their customers, and allow them to stay ahead of their competitors as the automotive industry increases its focus on mobility rather than machines. As we continue discussions with a range of parties and prepare to launch our next program, licensing 5G connectivity for connected vehicles, we’d encourage all parties to talk to us about our solutions.

Giving Back

Since founding Marconi in 2017, we’ve believed that it is important for us to enable employees to participate in and give back to the communities in which they live and work. One way we do this is through our matching gift program, in which we match employees’ personal donations to eligible charitable organizations. This allows people to support causes that are meaningful to them, whether national or international, or local to where they live and work. Many of our team members also volunteer their time and expertise to such organizations, and to date we have distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars through this program.

From time to time, we also organize Marconi Cares events, where we work as a team to support individual causes. In the past, we have worked to create packages of supplies at the North Texas Food Bank to pack bundles of food for distribution..

A couple of weeks ago, 30 of us volunteered for our latest Marconi Cares initiative, at the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid in Dallas. We helped prepare a shipment of shoes destined for Kenya through their Shoes for Orphan Souls initiative, which since 1999 has distributed more than four million pairs of shoes and socks to children in 83 countries. We were pleased to learn more about their important work and the privilege to contribute our labor as a team.

As a company which operates around the world, with employees spanning 10 nationalities, this effort resonated with us and, coincidentally, we had several overseas employees in town with us who joined their Dallas colleagues in volunteering.

We are proud of their efforts and are committed to being a great corporate citizen throughout the world!

Building a World Class Team

When we founded Marconi five years ago, we had a clear vision of transforming patent licensing. We knew that licensing patents could be – indeed, would need to be – simpler and more efficient. We also knew that, to make that happen, we would have to build a strong team, bringing together many of the world’s leading experts, with experience in getting licensing deals done.

Since then, we’ve done just that. Our senior leaders have hundreds of years of collective experience, gained at some of the world’s leading companies, both patent owners and implementers, including Ericsson, Google, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Qualcomm, and Samsung. To support them, we built expert teams of finance, human resources, legal and technical people, all of whom had risen to the top of their respective disciplines.

Given all of that, it is gratifying when others recognize the strength of our team. Our CEO, Kasim Alfalahi, is listed in both Managing IP’s 50 Most Influential People in IP and in the top 10 of IAM’s Top 40 Market Makers list. Laurie Fitzgerald, SVP Licensing at our Avanci business, was named among the Most Influential Women in IP by World IP Review.

More recently, twelve of our global team members are also listed in IAM’s Strategy 300 Global Leaders, which recognizes the leading professionals in IP – I know of no other organization with such strong results. Importantly, nominations for that list must come from outside of the individual’s organization.

In no small part because of our strong team, our Avanci business was named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum, joining prior recipients including Airbnb, Google, Spotify and Twitter.

Such recognition, especially from our peers, is both humbling and motivating. We take nothing for granted and will continue to work to maintain the trust and respect of all those we work with every day. To everyone that voted for us, thank you!

IAM: It’s time for a new approach to codec licensing

Next-generation codecs are not only technologically superior but also better for the environment. The IP industry needs to solve the problems that are holding back their adoption, argues Micky Minhas of Marconi.

Video streaming for entertainment and communication is now an integral part of our daily lives. The pandemic introduced millions of new people to Zoom, Teams, YouTube and Netflix who are continuing to rely on them as the world cycles in and out of lockdowns. Video’s importance in our lives will only increase as more video-focused products and services get off the drawing board for us to consume, from 360-degree video gaming to virtual health consultations to remote control of vehicles and drones, and more. There are already over 10 billion active devices for streaming video worldwide and video accounts for more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic.

The rails on the track for all this video are the codecs that enable raw footage to be compressed into data that we can share and view. But while the applications for video are the bleeding edge of technology, most of it runs on rails that are straight out of the early 2000s. Eighty percent of all internet-delivered video is encoded using Advanced Video Coding (AVC or H.264), a standard released 18 years ago, when MySpace was the most advanced social media platform. Its slightly younger sibling High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC / H.265) has been around for eight years as a standard, but it isn’t being implemented as widely for encoding video, even though it is twice as efficient as AVC. The progress keeps coming; ten months ago, a new standard was finalized. Using the new Versatile Video Coding (VVC / H.266) codec delivers the same level of picture quality with up to 50% improvement in video coding efficiency compared to HEVC. As we see video resolution increased from HD to 4K and 8K, without continual improvement in video compression, then the amount of data needed to transmit video would expand exponentially.

Aging codecs may seem like an arcane concern, something that only cinephiles and hardcore gamers need to worry about. But such a view couldn’t be more wrong. Our gadgets, the internet and the systems supporting them are predicted by 2025 to make up 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions, as much as all the world’s cars. Enabling more video streaming to use hyper-efficient VVC could save billions of tonnes of carbon each year. Better compression will mean lower demands on cloud computing data centers, which mostly rely on fossil fuel power to ensure reliability. It could also reduce the need for semiconductors, which have overtaken auto as one of the world’s worst polluting industries; Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, the world’s go-to chipmaker, produced a third more carbon than General Motors in 2019.

This seems such an obvious win, so why isn’t it happening? The ubiquity of AVC is partly because billions of older devices for streaming video can only support AVC decoding, but that doesn’t explain it all. The truth is that intellectual property and licensing failures are holding back the adoption of newer, better codecs.

Current patent pools are disaggregated and generally license one standard at a time, meaning that any device or service needing to work across multiple standards will need several licences.

They also tend to focus all licensing efforts on the consumer product manufacturers, so that the cost is not borne fairly across the ecosystem. Cloud and streaming services are big beneficiaries of codec technologies. Newer, better codecs dramatically reduce their storage requirements and provide ultra-high resolution videos without buffering or latency issues, enhancing the services that they charge users to watch or sell advertisements around. At present, these companies are not contributing to the cost of the codec technologies they rely on.

Many or most existing IP licensing organisations and pools also have an impartiality problem. A heritage of being owned by or closer to licensees or licensors, or simply having one side more in control of revenues and rules of engagement, makes it impossible to agree on the impartial, balanced terms that the industry needs to move forward.

This situation puts adoption of the new VVC standard at risk even before it enters the marketplace. The evidence from the HEVC experience is clear – continued fragmentation in licensing will likely be a significant barrier to wide acceptance of the VVC standard. Now is the time for a new approach in video licensing, leap-frogging the constraints of current models and reflecting how the video ecosystem has evolved.

So, what would the perfect licensing solution look like? Well, it needs to reflect how codecs are used now, rather than how they were used twenty years ago. It should have the potential to encompass multiple standards and avoid stacking multiple royalties. It should license at multiple points in the video encoding, decoding and transcoding ecosystem that are realising value from video coding standards, including streaming and cloud-based services, and not just end user devices. It should also be independently managed, open to companies from across the video ecosystem, and balance the needs of licensees and licensors.

The time is right for change. There is potential for a more comprehensive and fair approach in the video codec space, fit for how the video ecosystem has evolved.

Micky Minhas is Senior Vice President at Marconi and Professor of Intellectual Property at UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law. His previous roles include Vice President, Associate General Counsel, Patents at Microsoft and VP Patent Strategy at Qualcomm.

Originally published by IAM.

Licensor Spotlight: CICT Mobile embraces 5G opportunities with innovation

In the first of a series of articles, we spotlight the innovation of one of the patent owners in our Avanci marketplace, Datang Mobile (a subsidiary of CICT Mobile). This has been translated and adapted from an original article published by in China.

Avanci platform licensor CICT Mobile (a subsidiary of CICT Group) is a key force for 5G technology and industry in China and has been engaged in 5G research since 2012. Working with a range of industrial partners, CICT Mobile has targeted 5G application in industries including media integration, smart education, smart tourism, intelligent security, intelligent connected vehicles, smart manufacturing, smart power, smart healthcare, smart cities and smart industrial parks, as well as customized end-to-end 5G solutions. The company also works with leaders in relevant vertical industries and telecom operators to promote the rollout of popular 5G applications.

In a recent interview with Chinese media, CICT Mobile scientists Gao Xuejuan and Xing Yanping shared their views on 5G innovation, how they have contributed to the development of the telecom industry and how the Avanci platform is supporting the innovation process.

According to Gao, her achievements at CICT Mobile are down to the company’s development philosophy of building a “wireless communications engine” and its corporate values of innovation, market, integrity and responsibility. “I have been at CICT Mobile for 12 years, working on physical layer protocols since day one. I participated in the research and standardization of the LTE protocol versions ranging from R10 to R15. I’m currently researching 5G NR and have filed 260 patent applications as the first inventor.”

Xing shared that, “I joined CICT Mobile after graduating in 2007 and have been working on the standardization of the physical layer of mobile communications systems since then. I have participated in the standardization programs of several international and domestic standardization organizations, such as 3GPP and CCSA (China Communications Standardization Association).” She added that “CICT Mobile has innovation in its DNA. We recognize the important role of innovation in the development of the company and the entire industry, and we strive to create an environment that’s conducive for innovation.”

Back in the early days of 3G standardization, CICT Group, supported by industry authorities, drew on its years of research to present its proprietary TD-SCDMA technology, making it one of the three mainstream 3G standards, a breakthrough in mobile communications standards. This approach has also promoted the continued innovation, improvement, and standardization of 3G’s successors, 4G and 5G. To turbocharge the development of 5G in China, CICT Group has actively engaged in the formulation of global 5G standards. From the beginning of 3GPP’s 5G standardization work from 2015 to 2020, the company has submitted more than 10,000 technical documents on 5G technology and played a leading role in the approval of many important projects in 3GPP’s standardization efforts.

Datang Mobile (a subsidiary of CICT Mobile) has been working with Avanci’s IoT licensing platform since 2019. Commenting on Avanci, Gao said, “As an automotive licensing marketplace, Avanci provides a one-stop solution for telecom companies and automakers. It can further fuel the wide adoption of wireless communications technology in the auto sector. The cooperation between Datang Mobile and Avanci plays an exemplary role in the application of 5G standard technology in the IoT field. I think other IoT fields can also draw on this model.”  Xing added, “With its innovative approach to patent licensing, Avanci has attracted dozens of domestic and foreign telecom companies. It offers a one-stop solution for them and automakers, providing a great model for the application of cellular technology in IoT. This allows telecom companies to focus more on the development of the telecom technology itself. The implementors find it extremely inefficient to work with each telecom company separately. In fact, Avanci addresses the pain points of both sides. I think this is exactly why it can attract people to get on board. It can also fuel the wide adoption of wireless technology in the automotive sector.”

The industries and fields for vertical applications may be new to many telecom companies. If you want to go it alone, you will need to invest a lot of time and effort researching, negotiating and communicating. However, the Avanci marketplace resolves this problem for many telecom companies, acting as a bridge between them and automakers, which appeals to vendors in the communications field.