By Kim Bo-eun
LG Electronics’ headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul / Yonhap
LG Electronics is seeking new sources of revenue by tapping into its trove of telecom-related patents after shutting down its loss-making handset unit.
“We are continuing to look into ways wireless patents can be utilized, and patent suits can be a way for the assets to continue to contribute to LG in the form of revenue and future innovation,” an LG Electronics official said. LG’s handset business will be officially retired from July.
That doesn’t necessarily mean LG Electronics intends to transform itself into a patent troll. However, the company does plan to apply measures such as court filings to protect its telecom patents. More specifically, LG plans to look into a list of companies it believes are using its patents without a license. LG has so far received damage compensation from infringers or secured additional licensing contracts, which boost its bottom line.
Earlier this month, a regional court in Germany ruled that Chinese consumer electronics maker TLC infringed on one of LG’s LTE patents ― the ruling was in line with two other similar patent judgments.
In 2018, LG filed three separate lawsuits in a German court against French smartphone manufacturer Wiko for infringing on its LTE standard essential patents (SEP). SEPs are patents that protect technology essential to a standard. It is impossible to manufacture standard-compliant products such as smartphones without using technologies covered by one or more SEPs. The court ruled in LG’s favor in all three cases in 2019, but Wiko appealed. As a result, two of the original rulings were upheld while the final ruling is set to be made later this year.
In 2017, LG took legal action against U.S. smartphone manufacturer BLU with a Delaware court and the U.S. International Trade Commission for violating five of its LTE SEPs. The case was concluded months later with BLU signing an agreement to pay for using LG’s technology.
Given these cases, LG is set to continue filing patent lawsuits against global smartphone makers which have not signed licensing contracts. LG is positioned to benefit from this course of action given the number of mobile technology patents it holds.
According to intellectual property research and consulting firm TechIPm, LG ranked No. 1 in the world from 2012 to 2016 in the 4G (LTE/LTE-A) SEP category. Berlin-based market intelligence company IPlytics recently ranked LG third globally in the 5G SEP category with over 3,700 patents.