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Methodology: Patent Landscaping in the Indian Mobile Device Market

Posted by Rohini Lakshané at Nov 10, 2014 04:35 PM |
Through the patent landscaping exercise, we have identified patents pertaining to Internet-enabled mobile devices sold in India for USD 100 or less. The findings from this exercise are being used to develop legal strategies to reduce patent-based impediments to the widespread and rapid proliferation of this beneficial technology throughout India. The research methodology adopted for the patent landscaping exercise has been delineated here. This document is a work in progress.

1. Research Questions

  1. Are there indications of increasing patent filing over time by the mobile device industry in India?
  2. What patents pertain to capabilities commonly found in networked mobile devices sold in India for USD 100 or less?
  3. What are the existing patent pools for each of the capabilities identified in question 2? What do we know about these patent pools?
  4. Would the existing patent pools be sufficient to ensure that:
    1. consumers continue to have access to inexpensive devices?
    2. manufacturers operating in the budget segment are not snuffed out by patent litigation or do not pass on losses caused by patent litigation to their consumers?
    3. the rights of patent holders are not infringed upon? If not, why?
  5. Which of these patent pools could go into an India-based mobile device patent "pool of pools" formed possibly through government intervention and having a royalty level supportable by the domestic Indian consumer market for mobile devices?
  6. What is the design and manufacturing flow of a finished Internet-enabled low-cost mobile phone sold in India?

2. Objective

The objective of the chapter is to exhaustively determine the number of patents that apply to an Internet-enabled mobile device that costs the equivalent of USD 100 or less in the Indian retail market. The set of patents is restricted to those that apply to technologies which are commonly found in such a device. This set of patents could be included in a patent pool for Indian manufacturers of mobile phones.

3. Object

[2. What patents pertain to capabilities commonly found in networked mobile devices sold in India for USD 100 or less?]

Eight mobile phones [Annexure 1 (PDF)] have been procured for identifying the technical standards implemented in them. These are phones manufactured in China and sold in the white or grey market in India either by Indian brands or by Chinese ones. The research object also includes the Indian patent database, documentation published by standard setting organisations, and the practices of Indian manufacturers of Internet-enabled mobile devices in the sub-USD-100 segment.

3.1. The phones were used to determine “capabilities commonly found in networked mobile devices sold in India for USD 100 or less” as described in research question 2. These capabilities were identified by (a) examining the physical components of the phone, (b) by running emulators which identified details about the hardware, (c) verifying the findings from (a) and (b) with the users' manual, packaging box, or any other documentation published by the manufacturer.

3.2. Criteria for Choosing the Mobile Phones
  • The handsets cost less than USD 100 (INR 6,000 approximately), connect to the Internet, and are sold in physical Indian markets.
  • Every handset has at least one feature that differentiates it from the rest of the set. For example, in-built support for multiple Indian languages; 50 kilowatt battery (as published on the carton and battery label); camera with CMOS sensor.
  • The universal set for the mobile phones of interest for this research can not be defined as the phones are sold in grey or black markets. Catalogues, online listings, company websites, and other documentation for this universal set are not available. Hence, it is not possible to definitively identify mobile phones that are 'representative' of the handsets of interest. Handsets that help one get a richer sense of the population of the sub-USD-100 mobile phone market in India have been chosen.

4. Rationale

Though India has not yet witnessed patent litigation of the same scale as developed countries, litigation over standard essential patents in India has already led to injunctions against nine homegrown and Chinese manufacturers[1]. The mobile device landscape in India uncovered through this research will be applied to the development of policy recommendations that aim to ensure that consumers continue to have access to inexpensive devices, that manufacturers operating in the budget segment do not end up shutting shop due to patent litigation, and the rights of patent holders are not infringed upon.

5. Research Method

[1. Are there measurable indications of increasing patent filing by the mobile device industry in India?

2. What patents pertain to capabilities commonly found in networked mobile devices sold in India for USD 100 or less?]

Fifty Indian and non-Indian companies most likely to hold telecom-related patents in India were identified by CIS. [Annexure 4]. Two patent searchs firm were contracted the task of searching the database of the Indian Patent Office by the names of the fifty companies for patents granted and applied for.

5.1. Procedure for selecting law firms/ patent attorneys:

  • Ten law firms and patent search agencies from different parts of India were identified as potential contractors after preliminary meetings with several patent attorneys and representatives of law firms.
  • Price quotations were invited from the ten organisations after holding one or more meetings with each.
  • On the basis of the quotation, deliverable time, scope and nature of the results delivered, and quality assurance, the contract was awarded to one firm of patent attorneys (Hourglass Research, Mumbai) and one law firm. The firms offered the best price for a commensurate deliverable time and assured quality of results.

5.2. Patent Firm 1 (Hourglass Research) Search Strategy:

Step 1: A taxonomy that comprehensively covers different technologies implemented in an Internet-enabled mobile phone was drawn up [Annexure 5]. The taxonomy was split into categories (Level 1) and sub-categories (Level 2).

Step 2: The Derwent World Patents Index (DWPI) assigns one or more manual codes (MC) to each patent depending on the technology described by the patent. The patent firm matched manual codes pertaining to mobile technology with categories in the taxonomy. Thus, each manual code corresponded to one or more categories in the taxonomy.

Step 3: Subsequently, search strings [listed in Annexure 6] were used to find published applications as well as granted patents from the Thomson Innovation (TI) database. The search strings comprise permutations and combinations of the manual codes [Annexure 7], fifty assignees , keywords, and IPC classes and sub-classes. The search results were extracted on February 23, 2015. Hence, the patents granted or published till then have been included in the landscape. The start date is January 1, 2000 as the Thomson Innovation Database does not contain earlier records from the Indian Patent Office database.

Step 4: Then, manual codes for each patent in the results were extracted. Each patent was assigned a category corresponding to its manual codes. This automated categorisation was manually reviewed and validated by reading the claims, abstract, DWPI use, and DWPI novelty. In instances where the patent could not be categorised based on the information contained in the claims, abstract, DWPI use, and DWPI novelty, the detailed description associated with the patents (i.e., the column entitled "Description" in the dataset) was read.

Step 5: The TI database yields International Patent Documentation (INPADOC) families. In instances where one or more patents from the same family appeared in the search results, granted patents were chosen over non-granted ones as "representative" of the family.

Step 6: The results were deduplicated first on the basis of the publication number and then on the basis of the application number. In five instances, two or more different patents were assigned the same application number. This was resolved by manually reading the patent and determining the most relevant patent.

4,052 patents and 19,517 patent applications relevant to the mobile phone were found at the end of the patent landscaping exercise.

5.3. Schema for identified patents and patent applications: Name of Assignee -- Patent Number -- Application Number -- Status of application (Granted/ Published) -- Application Date -- Publication Date -- Grant Date -- Database Searched -- Title -- Abstract -- Category (Level 1) -- Sub-category (Level 2) -- Infrastructure/ User Equipment/ both -- Title (DWPI) -- Abstract (DWPI) -- Abstract DWPI Novelty -- Abstract DWPI Use -- Comments/ Remarks

5.4. List of IPC classes and sub-classes and DWPI Manual Codes excluded from the patent search: [Annexure 8], [Rejoinder to Annexure 8]

These classes, sub-classes and manual codes were excluded as they were very overarching for the research question. Class H04, for instance, pertains to "electric communication techniques". It is likely to comprise a comparatively large number of patents not pertaining to mobile device technology. Instead, certain sub-classes of H04 that are the most relevant to mobile device have been considered. As another example, the sub-classes of G01 pertain to measurements of physical quantities (length, area, thickness, et al). The number of patents pertaining to mobile technology in these sub-classes will be small compared with the number of patents in the sub-class.

5.5 Patent Search Firm 2

Patent Search Firm 2 used Questel and Questel Orbit databases to search for patents and patent applications filed in India from January 1, 2005 to January 1, 2015. The results delivered by this firm did not fulfill our quality standards. Hence, they were dropped from the research. We intended to compare the results of the two search firms to determine the difference.

5.6. Identifying telecom standards implemented in mobile phones:

[2. What patents pertain to capabilities commonly found in networked mobile devices sold in India for USD 100 or less?]

Using documentation available from standards-setting organisations and industry consortia, and from the nine handsets, 322 technical standards [Annexure 2] implemented in a networked mobile device have been identified by CIS. These technical standards support commonly found capabilities in a networked mobile handset. By dismantling the phones, their components were identified [Annexure 3]. The list of components and standards was used to determine the patent pools, standard-setting organisations and standard development organisations of interest for research questions 3 and 4 as well as for the literature survey.

6. Validation of Results

The results of the patent landscaping exercise turned in by the patent search firm were validated by performing the following steps:

  • Checking for duplicate application numbers via MySql
  • Checking for duplicate publication numbers via MySql

No duplicates were found.

7. Analysis of Results

[2. What patents pertain to capabilities commonly found in networked mobile devices sold in India for USD 100 or less?]

7.1. Data Analysis: Breakdown of 23,569 patents and patent applications

Number of patents and patent applications combined in the different Level 1 categories,

Number of patents and patent applications combined in Level 2 categories (i.e., sub-categories).

7.2. Visualisations: Graphical representations of the patent landscape

1. Number of patents in each Level 1 category
2. Number of published patent applications versus granted patents in each Level 1 category     
3. Number of patents in each sub-category of “Communication”
4. Number of patents in each sub-category of “Operational Blocks”
5. Number of patents in each sub-category of “Sensors”
6. Number of patents in each sub-category of “Energy Storage”
7. Number of patents in each sub-category of “Sound, image, and video”
8. Number of patents in each sub-category of “Display”
9. Number of user equipment patents, infrastructure patents and infrastructure and user equipment patents.
10. Number of patents held by each of the fifty assignees
11. Number of patent filings by the fifty assignees from the year 2000 to the year 2014   
12. Number of patents in each Level 1 category filed over the years (time intervals: 2000-2003, 2004-2007, 2008-2011, 2012-2014)     
13. Number of patents filed annually from the year 2000 to 2014 for all Level 1 categories combined
14. Top 10 assignees in Communication
15. Top 10 assignees in Operational Blocks
16. Top 10 assignees in Software
17. Top 10 assignees in Sensors
18. Top 10 assignees in Sound, Image, and Video
19. Top 10 assignees in Display
20. Number of patents in each Level 1 category held by each assignee in the top 10. (The ten assignees with the most number of patents in the overall dataset of 23,569.)
21. Number of patents filed from the year 2000 to 2014 in each sub-category of Communication
22. Number of patents filed from the year 2000 to 2014 in each sub-category of Operational Blocks
23. Sub-categories (Level 2 categories) with the highest number of filings [Baseband; Bandwidth; Call and data management; Signalling, routing and switching]
24. Top 10 assignees in Baseband
25. Top 10 assignees in Bandwidth
26. Top 10 assignees in Call and data management
27. Top 10 assignees in Signalling, routing and switching

8. Confidential Research and Anonymised Interviews

[6. What is the design and manufacturing flow of a finished Internet-enabled low-cost mobile phone sold in India?]

CIS conducted and published anonymised interviews with semiconductor chip manufacturers in Taiwan in September 2014. A confidential research exercise was conducted with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and white-label assembly lines in China in 2014. The two research exercises have contributed to the mapping of the downstream flow of manufacturing a finished, Internet-enabled, low-cost mobile device.

9. Literature Survey

[3. What are the existing patent pools for each of the capabilities found in a low-cost networked mobile device? What do we know about these patent pools?

4. Would the existing patent pools be sufficient to ensure that consumers continue to have access to inexpensive devices, that manufacturers operating in the budget segment are not snuffed out by patent litigation (or pass on losses caused by patent litigation to their consumers), and the rights of patent holders are not infringed upon. If not, why?]

Research questions 3 and 4 will be answered via a comprehensive literature survey.

10. Prior Art

A list of 2,300 patents from different jurisdictions (US, Japan, India, Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, Europe, China, Finland, France, Norway, UK, Germany, Singapore) searched by keyword/ keystring was compiled in 2013 [2].

Clairvolex, a market research firm based in Gurgaon conducted a patent landscaping exercise of mobil technologies in India in 2010. The search was based on IPC classes: http://www.clairvolex.com/pdf/communication.pdf

11. Narrative:

The chapter for the book takes the form of a story of an Indian businessperson travelling to Shenzhen in China to procure a consignment of mobile phones for selling them in India. The businessperson puts together a configuration of hardware and software for the mobile phone and sets out to find the royalties he would need to pay for it.

Numerical data has been presented using visualisations.

12. Assumptions:

The chapter assumes a direct link between the patent regime and the availability of inexpensive Internet-enabled mobile devices, whereas the latter is affected by several other factors outside the scope of this research, for example, trademark infringement litigation.

13. Limitations:

  • The patent landscape only encompasses the patents and patent applications filed by 50 major brands in India. It does not take into account patents held by other vendors, universities, and educational institutions.
  • The patent landscaping exercise was conducted for patents granted and applications filed between January 1, 2000 and February 23, 2015 as earlier data for Indian patents was not available in the Thomson Reuters database. As the lifespan of a patent is 20 years, live patents granted between 1995 and 2000 in India are not present in the landscape.
  • IPC classes, sub-classes and DWPI manual codes listed in Annexure 8 were not included in the patent landscape as they were very overarching for the research question. Class H04, for instance, pertains to "electric communication techniques". It is likely to comprise a comparatively large number of patents not pertaining to mobile device technology. Instead, certain sub-classes of H04 that are the most relevant to mobile device have been considered. As another example, the sub-classes of G01 pertain to measurements of physical quantities (length, area, thickness, et al). The number of patents pertaining to mobile technology in these sub-classes will be small compared with the number of patents in the sub-class. Owing to the presence of a relatively large number of patents superfluous to the research, these classes were not included in the interest of time, effort, and monetary cost.

 

Edited, April 8, 2015: To add -- Procedure for selecting law firms/ patent attorneys for this task, Patent database searching by company name, List of companies

Edited April 27, 2015: To update -- Annexure 2, List of standards and specifications found in sub-USD-100 Internet-enabled mobile phones sold in India.

Edited, May 23, 2015: To remove "Scope: Software patents will not be considered" as software patents granted in India have been found.

Edited, July 25, 2015: To remove steps "Patent database searching by standard" and "patent database searching by keyword" as they would have increased the time and costs needed for the landscaping without adding significant value. Hence, removed the research question, "What degree of standards implemented in the mobile device technology sold within India compared with that in the US is currently covered by patents?"

Edited, November 7, 2015: To edit – Research question 1. Are there measurable indications of increasing patenting activity in the mobile device industry in India?

2. What patents are absolutely necessary to keep a networked mobile device which costs less than USD 100 in India running?

3. What are the existing patent pools for each of the standards identified and what do we know about them?

4. Question trifurcated.

5. Which of these patent pools could go into an India-based mobile device patent "pool of pools" formed possibly through government intervention and having a royalty level supportable by the domestic Indian mobile device market?

Research Objective: The set of patents is restricted to those that apply to technologies that are absolutely necessary for the functioning of such a device.

To add in “Research Object”: The research object was used to determine “ features commonly found in networked mobile devices sold in India that cost less than USD 100” as described in research question 2.

To add sections on Analysis of Results, Confidential Research and Anonymised Interviews, and Literature Survey.

Edited, November 17, 2015: To add section on Limitations.


Footnotes:

[1]. Compilation of Mobile Phone Patent Litigation Cases in India, Rohini Lakshané, March 15, 2015, http://cis-india.org/a2k/blogs/compilation-of-mobile-phone-patent-litigation-cases-in-india, Last accessed November 7, 2015.

[2]. Mobile Phone Patents: Prior Art Survey, Nehaa Chaudhari, October 23, 2013, http://cis-india.org/a2k/blog/mobile-phone-patents, Last accessed November 7, 2015.

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