Ericsson, Huawei strike patent deal for cellular tech

Ericsson, which seems perennially involved in patent deals or disputes, has struck a patent cross-licensing agreement with, of all companies, Huawei.

The global, long-term, cross-licensing agreement covers patents for 3G, 4G and 5G cellular technologies, using a wide range of standards such as 3GPP, ITU, IEEE and IETF. The agreement covers the companies' respective sales of network infrastructure and consumer devices, granting both parties global access to each other's patented, standardized technologies. 

While Ericsson has been involved in a couple of high-profile patent disputes with the likes of Apple and Samsung, this deal with Huawei is amicable. And it was struck through negotiation and finalized earlier this month.

A Huawei spokesperson said that for this agreement, both parties, in a relatively short time and in respect of global IP regulations, reached agreement. Each party recognized the capabilities of the other.

Fierce Wireless asked whether the partnership would cause any problems for operators that use Ericsson equipment in countries where Huawei equipment is banned. A Huawei spokesperson told Fierce via email, “Huawei’s patent portfolio is publicly known, as are Huawei’s technical contributions to international standards like 5G telecommunications and Wi-Fi.”

Alan Fan, head of Huawei's Intellectual Property Department, stated, "As major contributors of standard essential patents (SEPs) for mobile communication, the companies recognize the value of each other's intellectual property, and this agreement creates a stronger patent environment."

Fan added that the agreement with Ericsson is the result of “intensive discussions” and that both parties will give and receive access to key technologies.

The two companies seem to have concluded that it’s better to negotiate patent issues rather than litigate them.

Past patent disputes

But Ericsson has been involved in high-profile patent disputes before it decided to work amicably with Huawei.

In 2021, Ericsson and Samsung reached a multi-year global patent license agreement for cellular technologies including 5G, marking an end to legal disputes between the two.

And in late 2022, Ericsson and Apple reached a multi-year global patent license agreement, ending a bitter years-long battle between the two companies.

Huawei patents

Huawei has about 120,000 patents, including mobile communications, short-range communications, and audio and video codecs. And companies around the world have obtained the licenses to its patents through bilateral licensing agreements or patent pools. In 2022, 29 companies based in China, the U.S., Europe, Japan, South Korea, and other countries entered into licensing agreements with Huawei for the paid use of the company's patented technologies.

In 2022, Huawei's patent revenue was about $560 million. But historically, Huawei has paid about three times as much to license others’ patents. Through July 2023, Huawei has entered into nearly 200 bi-lateral patent licenses.