Thursday, August 25, 2022

Korean car makers Hyundai, Kia, Genesis take 4G standard-essential patent license from Avanci pool, which has licensed 45 automotive brands by now

With Volkswagen (which upgraded its license to groupwide 4G earlier this year), General Motors (which signed up without any litigation), and Ford (which settled shortly after a Munich injunction), the Avanci patent pool had already licensed two of the world's largest automotive groups. Today, another major group of automotive brands was announced as new Avanci licensees: Hyundai, KIA, and Genesis. They all form part of Hyundai Motor Group, and collectively sell 6-7 million cars per year.

According to the patent pool firm's press release, this increases "the total number of automotive brands licensed through Avanci to 45"--and I noticed that the number of contributors to the pool (i.e., licensors) has hit 50 with the addition of a small licensing firm named Equo. Recently, the number of licensed brands has grown at a far faster pace than the number of licensors (where the pool is already close to market saturation), so I guess we'll soon see Avanci having even more licensees than licensors.

No patent assertions by Avanci licensors against the Korean companies were pending. What I described as a "final boarding call" last month appears to have served its purpose: at least those three car makers have concluded that there was no point in waiting until the per-unit license fee increases from $15 to $20.

Juve Patent and IAM have previously reported on the announcement and stressed that the license agreement just ahead of a "price hike."

Even those car makers who took their chances in litigation (Tesla, Daimler, Ford, and--to a very limited extent--Volkswagen) ended up taking the pool license anyway. And there is no indication that the sky has fallen on any Avanci licensee, to put it that way. Continental's mileage may vary, but they don't make cars (just tires and some electronic components), they don't decide for their customers, and the courts consistently disagree with them.

Hyundai and KIA are traditional, high-volume car makers, while Genesis is a luxury brand that was founded only about six years ago. From a technical point of view, I really like the Genesis GV60, which was designed as an electric vehicle from the start. It has some interesting (optional) features such as biometric authentication and video side mirrors.

Some enforcement actions against are currently pending in Munich against Nissan and certain Stellantis brands (Fiat Chrysler and Opel). We'll see whether those brands--like the Hyundai group--will elect to take a license at the $15 rate before it goes up to $20.

I don't expect it to take long now before Avanci will have licensed nearly 100% of the world's connected vehicles. A year ago, Daimler had settled with Nokia, but on the basis of a bilateral license, and took its pool license only later that year. Meanwhile, Volkswagen's 4G upgrade and multiple new license agreements have massively increased Avanci's market penetration.

Just like others, I, too, would like to know more about Avanci's upcoming 5G license, particularly the rate as well as the initial licensors and licensees. But 4G is today's bread-and-butter business in automotive wireless SEP licensing.