Technology Stacks

It is impossible to develop modern, complex products without infringing IPR. The key challenge is to understand who owns that IPR and what obligations / royalties are associated with the IPRs.

Typical consumer products, particularly in the ICT sector, may implement technical standards, and often more than one standard.

Devices such as smartphones often implement multiple standards from different standard setting organisations to cover different functions, interfaces and features. Such standards may include:

  • Cellular standards, including: 2G (ETSI – GSM), 3G (3GPP – UMTS/WCDMA; 3GPP2 – CDMA2000), 4G (3GPP – LTE / LTE-Adv)
  • WLAN: WiFi (IEEE – 802.11x)
  • PANs: Bluetooth (Bluetooth Special Interest Group)
  • Wireless power (Qi Consortium)
  • GPS / Galileo / GLONASS
  • USB (

Such devices will also implement other standards internally – for interfaces and features not exposed to the end user, but necessary to the functioning of the product. Such standards might include:

  • Secure Digital memory (SD Card Association)
  • eMMC (JEDEC)

Smartphones and related consumer electronics devices will also implement standards for codec support – such as audio and video codecs:

  • FLAC (Xiph.Org Foundation)
  • VP8 (Google)
  • H.264 AVC (ISO/IEC MPEG)
  • DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance)

A deep-dive analysis into any one of these standards is likely to identify a further set of referenced / embedded technical standards necessary to fully implement the end product. Most technical standards will include some level of standards essential patents (SEPs) or essential IPRs. Many will support some level of royalty free use, but not all.

How the economic value of patent portfolios for specific technologies can be determined as part of the overall technology stack is beyond this article. However, it is important to recognise that very few technical standards stand alone – most form a layer in a stack of standards, and likely one stack of multiple stacks in a product. Building an understanding of this picture is non-trivial, but necessary.