ADC wants to license OFDMA patents on fair and reasonable basis

Recently I noted that ADC could shake up the wireless industry a bit as the company claims to have some important patents that pertain to LTE and WiMAX. ADC's patents were recently recognized by a new report from analyst firm Maravedis, which noted that ADC's patents, though not designed initially for the wireless industry, are quite fundamental to these next-generation OFDMA standards. I recently spoke with ADC's IP experts to find out more about the company's IPR strategy.

In the early 1990s, ADC launched an R&D effort to break into the broadband data transport market. Spending some $250 million, ADC engineers invented and brought to market synchronized OFDMA and built and deployed more than 100,000 OFDMA modems. ADC said the U.S. Patent Office has issued more than 40 patents based on ADC's work with 70 more patents pending. Now that WiMAX and LTE are gaining traction in the industry, ADC decided to have its coming out party.

According to Phil Caspers, IP counsel with ADC, some examples of the company's patents include: a synchronized multi-point to point OFDMA system; OFDM tone allocation, which addresses QoS; contention-based bandwidth request; and multi-frame synchronization.

"They go to a broad range of some of the more fundamental concepts that drive the LTE and WiMAX standards," said Caspers.

Mike Ouyang, ADC's head of IP strategy, noted that the company didn't just develop OFDMA concepts on paper. It developed commercial products based on them. "When you really do a development effort and build a real product, it's not just thinking about high-level concepts. You have to make it work, and you get the high-level concept and all of the detail that makes the product work. WiMAX and LTE standards have to go through the same type of details."

Caspers said he doesn't believe any other company is as well-positioned as ADC in terms of its patent position. "It's not unreasonable to conclude that we have the most valuable portfolio," he said.

So what does ADC want? Company officials say they are open to a number of ways of obtaining a return on its investment, and they are exploring all of their options.

ADC isn't a member of any of the standards bodies so it doesn't have to follow any of the licensing guidelines these groups put in place. Nor does it make equipment so it won't be horse trading any patents either. It also doesn't have a vested interest in keeping IPR costs down for the entire industry.

ADC says, however, that it is interested in licensing its patents based on a fair and reasonable basis. "The wireless industry is a very patent-savvy industry and has dealt with a lot of different types of companies," Caspers said. "If we can get broad marketplace awareness of our patents, and once [wireless industry] companies understand and appreciate the technology that we invented, I don't think receiving a fair value will be that difficult."--Lynnette