Calling all WiMAX patents

The Open Patent Alliance today issued a open call for all WiMax intellectual property, taking the first step in what it hopes will become the first patent pool for 4G technology. The OPA and its patent administrator Via Licensing are hoping they can bring together a “critical mass” of WiMax license holders into a single patent pool that would become a veritable one-stop shop for device and equipment makers looking to build 4G gear.

The OPA was started by some of the brighter lights of the WiMax industry, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU), Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) and Samsung among them. But their aim is to bring as many potential patent holders as possible under the OPA’s umbrella. A device maker would then only need to go to one licensing source to begin embedding WiMax technology, rather than signing licensing agreements with every individual patent holder, explained OPA President Yung Hahn.

The task is easier said than done. Companies must first submit their patents to an independent referee to determine if they are essential to the WiMax and IEEE 802.16e standard. If selected then the patent holders must all sit down and hash out with their peers the exact value of their intellectual property and the terms of its licensing, a process that could easily take more than a year, Hahn said. And at the end of the process, if any individual patent holder isn’t satisfied with the final terms, they can simply walk away from the table, Hahn said.

The initiative would still be a success even if there are a few hold outs, Hahn said. One of the primary goals of the OPA is to make it easier for non-traditional wireless players to enter the WiMax market. Those players may have to sign a few bilateral agreements with OPA hold outs, but that beats having to sign multiple dozens of licensing agreements with every individual patent holder in the industry, Hahn said.

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