Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Xiaomi announces new patent license agreements with IP Bridge, Orange, Siemens: another sign of Access Advance pool being sidestepped

An interesting announcement hit the news wires yesterday:

"Patent owners IP Bridge, Orange, Siemens and Xiaomi, a world-leading consumer electronics and smart manufacturing company, today announced an end to long lasting disputes through an innovative patent licensing transaction to enable efficient licensing of patent rights across multiple technologies from the companies to Xiaomi. Novus IP, a company owned by Mr. Paul Lin, the former "Head of IP Strategy" at Xiaomi, worked as a deal facilitator and helped Xiaomi and the three licensors successfully close this licensing transaction in a highly efficient manner."

This looks like a virtual and temporary pool: three licensors (IP Bridge, Orange, Siemens) concluded an agreement with one licensee (Xiaomi). It's an interesting new approach, and adds to Mr. Lin's reputation as a patent licensing dealmaker who gets things done. By the way, last month I reported on a webinar moderated by Mr. Lin.

In early November, information I obtained from German court sources indicated to me that Xiaomi might have decided to enter into bilateral license agreements with the Access Advance's licensors instead of taking an HEVC pool license. Also, Xiaomi remains licensed to some patents--especially Samsung's HEVC patents--by virtue of having taken an MPEG LA license before Samsung left. As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm--and the worm in question (a given company's HEVC standard-essential patent portfolio) keeps growing after it's been caught, like the gift that keeps on giving. Some Access Advance licensors don't want to face that fact, which is why some (in my opinion meritless) litigation is pending in state court.

Of the three companies who yesterday announced their new license agreements with Xiaomi, one is a key HEVC Advance licensor: IP Bridge was suing Xiaomi in Germany over its implementation of HEVC. Not so anymore. Another HEVC Advance licensor has settled with Xiaomi on a bilateral basis.

What's happening here doesn't generally call into question the ability of patent pools to provide transactional efficiencies. I'm sure we'll continue to hear about Xiaomi taking patent pool licenses. The situation between Xiaomi and Access Advance is an outlier, but Xiaomi must have reasons for what it's doing.

Let's see what 2023 will bring in terms of next-generation codec (VVC etc.) patent pool announcements.