July 11, 2018
iRunway, a technology research firm specializing in patent licensing and litigation, has released a patent landscape report on global R&D efforts in Wireless LAN technology. As Wi-Fi is turning out to be the technology of choice for Internet of Things, there is a strong focus to enhance Wi-Fi features such as IP based communication, security and flexibility that encourages IoT networking and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication.
iRunway analyzed the global patent landscape of Wireless LAN technology, also mapping patents to IEEE standards for a more comprehensive analysis. The study identified 21,565 active patents and patent-pending applications and categorized them into a comprehensive technology taxonomy. The patent data set was also evaluated to identify seminal, or high value patents with immense potential for monetization.
A geographical analysis revealed that nearly 49% of the global Wireless LAN patents have been registered with the USPTO. Germany owns the second largest portfolio with 11%, followed by China with 10%. Much of the patenting activity is related to MAC/LLC Layer Services and Features, with a strong focus on MAC Framing and MAC Layer Management technology.
40% of the top 15 geographies are from the Asia-Pacific region suggesting extensive R&D activity and growth in these markets. “This year, there is a predominant focus on developing Wave 2 products, with major technology improvements in MU-MIMO. Asia-Pacific offers a large market and developing technology hubs that make it a competitive region for R&D and easier penetration into the consumer market. It also has the highest deployment of cloud services making it a promising hub for the growth and deployment of Wireless LAN technologies,” says Animesh Kumar, Chief Solutioning Officer at iRunway. Microsoft’s collaboration with the Indian government’s Digital India initiative and Qualcomm’s move to become a member of Allseen Alliance, a consortium working on IP pertaining to standard protocols in Wireless LAN and IoT, is paving the way for the next technology shift in Wireless LAN technology towards 802.11ax.
Qualcomm was a late entrant in the Wireless LAN patent landscape; however, key acquisitions such as that of Atheros has moved the company to a leadership position. Qualcomm today owns 3,357 Wireless LAN patents, showing strong research interest in developing MAC/ LLC Services and Features, and Physical Layer technologies. The company’s strong R&D efforts in adaptive antennas is evident from its leadership in MIMO and CoMP technologies as charted in another iRunway Research on 4G-LTE Global Patent Landscape. Intel and Marvel make for the second and third largest patent owners in Wireless LAN. “There is an emerging technology culture that is encouraging BYOD and cloud applications. The slow yet steady increase in the acceptance of IoT and smart gadget communication has found an increase in R&D. Qualcomm and Intel have already made great strides into this space and are likely to be the leaders in Wireless LAN,” says Animesh Kumar.
Interdigital has a strong portfolio of 141 seminal patents, showing immense potential for licensing and monetization, Qualcomm and Marvell follow suit. iRunway’s research mapped these seminal patents with SEPs and conducted a comprehensive study. While Qualcomm owned a large number of seminal patents, it did not figure in the top 10 list of SEP owners. Interestingly, AT&T is the only assignee that owns significant SEPs and seminal patents, holding onto a strong position in the top 10 lists of both categories. Though Nokia owns the ninth largest Wireless LAN patent portfolio, it owns the highest number of SEPs with 70 patents. Samsung owns 12.5% of all SEPs. Despite being a major researcher of Wireless LAN technology, Intel does not own any SEP.
The litigation trend pertaining to Wireless LAN patents has been on the rise since 2003. In the last 14 years, the U.S. courts witnessed 2,102 litigation involving 678 Wireless LAN patents. Affinity Labs, Blue Spike and Endeavor Meshtech are the leading plaintiffs, while Samsung is the largest defendant facing charges in 505 cases. ZTE, Ericsson, AT&T and HTC are four other popular defendants in this space. An analysis of the litigation trend found that 42% of these litigated patents have a priority date ranging between 1996 and 2005, suggesting a healthy lifetime to withstand the litigation test.
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iRunway helps corporations, law firms and universities unlock and protect the value of patents by combining technology expertise with practical business insights to monetize patent portfolios and improve licensing and litigation outcomes. iRunway also provides imaging, teardown, circuit extraction, semiconductor construction analysis, testing and other reverse engineering lab capabilities, intended to aid its clients in obtaining compelling evidence with lower cost of evidence.
iRunway has offices in Austin, Dallas, San Jose, Denver and Bangalore (India). For more information about the company’s reverse engineering solutions, consulting model and in-depth analysis, visit
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