Thursday, March 26, 2020

Europe stands several times more to lose than to gain from condoning Nokia's refusal to license automotive suppliers

On both sides of the Atlantic one can watch interesting examples of "reverse protectionism":

Antitrust enforcement should simply be a question of legal merits. But the industrial-policy argument that some forces within the European Commission make in Nokia's (and, by extension, Ericsson's) favor just doesn't withstand even superficial scrutiny.

Three charts that I've quickly produced with OpenOffice Calc, relying on data points published on the Internet, show that the European Union would ultimately help Asian and American patent holders extract license fees from European product makers more so than it would strengthen Nokia and similarly-situated Ericsson:

  1. According to the latest IPlytics figures, Nokia (including Alcatel-Lucent) owns 8.63% of all 5G declared-essential patent families, and Ericsson 5.32%. That's a total of 13.95% for the only two European companies on the list--all others are American and Asian patent holders:

    Therefore, no matter how much (over)compensation those two licensors--Nokia and Ericsson--may be able to obtain, the EU economy will remain a net licensee in the greater scheme of things.

  2. Europe's automotive industry dwarfs Nokia and Ericsson with respect to investment in research and development. According to ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers Association), "EU automotive investment in R&D has increased by 6.7% to reach €57.4 billion annually." Macrotrends says "Ericsson research and development expenses for the twelve months ending December 31, 2019 were $4.107B, a 8.3% decline year-over-year." Statista shows that Nokia's R&D spend is also in decline, down to €4.41 billion. Here's a column chart (click on the image to enlarge):

  3. Finally, it's also interesting to compare the number of jobs in the EU's automotive industry (ACEA: "13.8 million Europeans work in the auto industry (directly and indirectly), accounting for 6.1% of all EU jobs") to the entire population sizes of the two countries whose "national champions" hold 5G patents (click on the image to enlarge):

The underlying patent licensing issue affects more than the automotive sector. There's an emerging Internet of Things industry, and countless European IoT startups are simply not equipped to deal with end-product-level SEP licensing but could make highly innovative products if the wireless chips they incorporate into their products were exhaustively licensed.

Share with other professionals via LinkedIn: