“Quality of patents is more important than timeliness”

Read here about Ericsson’s R&D philosophy and investments in India, the role of startups and MSMEs in driving technological innovation.

Shubhendu Parth
New Update
Gabriele Mohsler

Gabriele Mohsler

As the Head of Patent Development at Ericsson, Gabriele Mohsler leads the global efforts in creating and enhancing the company’s patent portfolio. While Ericsson has achieved over 60,000 patents, emerging as a company holding one of the strongest radio communication patent portfolios in the industry covering 3G, 4G and 5G cellular standards, Mohsler has also been driving the initiative of prioritizing quality over quantity. In an interaction with Shubhendu Parth, she shared insights into the framework and key pointers defining patent quality. She also talked about Ericsson’s R&D philosophy and investments in India, the role of startups and MSMEs in driving technological innovation, and the IPR ecosystem in India. Excerpts:


There has been a shift in India’s technological landscape over the past decade, from a focus on software patents to an increased emphasis on engineering and hardware products. How do you reflect on this change?

I think software is important, especially in the patent field. Most of the inventions at Ericsson—and we file around 2,000 patents every year—are software-related. It was the same even 10 years back; it had already evolved from hardware-centric innovations to a focus on software.

Overall, the contributions from the country have risen significantly, not just tied to hardware advancements but driven by the growth of software within the nation. During my last visit, just before the onset of the pandemic, and in the preceding years, there has been a consistent increase in these numbers. This growth is directly linked to increased R&D and technology investments in the country.


In terms of R&D investments in India, is it primarily from local companies or global entities like Ericsson?

I believe it is a combination of both. At Ericsson, we are committed to R&D in India, with 1,800 people actively contributing to research and development. The reason behind this commitment is the presence of excellent engineers and professionals in India who drive and develop technology and products. In that sense, it is not entirely independent, as our investment in India is a testament to the trust we have in the country. Although we are an international company headquartered in Sweden, the decision to invest in R&D in India is rooted in the excellence of engineers and R&D professionals here.

Given India’s rise as the 3rd largest ecosystem for startups globally, how do you perceive the role of startups and MSMEs in driving technological innovation, especially in the telecom sector?


I think startups need to invest in the technology and build use cases. While their R&D departments may not be as extensive as larger corporations, startups need to focus on technology. If they generate innovative ideas and technologies, disregarding intellectual property rights (IPR) momentarily, they can develop compelling use cases that will gain traction in the market. Having both engineering and entrepreneurial perspectives is vital in driving this innovation and discovering new, creative ideas. Subsequently, these ideas can evolve into tangible products for the market.

Is there a process through which Ericsson engages with these new entities, particularly MSMEs involved in R&D within the telecom sector?

We do not engage with startups as such. Our focus is on conducting our R&D here in the country, specifically in the development and deployment of our 5G products in the market. We, however, work with academia; for instance, we have signed an MOU with IIT-Chennai for Responsible AI. These collaborations, where our R&D centres are actively involved, form the foundation of our engagement strategy.


Are there any plans in response to the Government of India’s announcement on Innovation Labs?

Internally, we are actively exploring this, but currently, there is nothing specific to share. We are aware of the announcement and are carefully considering it. Perhaps, by later next year, we will have more information to disclose.

Ericsson recently signed the EPO patent quality charter. What does it mean for the company and how will it translate into benefits for the India R&D centre?


Thank you for the question because it was my initiative. We began with the fundamental belief that our focus should be on quality, not quantity. To elaborate, we scrutinised our patent portfolio, acknowledging our substantial 60,000 patents and an annual filing rate of 1,800 to 2,000. We recognised the value of this portfolio but insisted on maintaining a commitment to quality, recognising that quantity alone is insufficient.

Regarding the EPO Quality Charter, Ericsson is one of its founding partners. This initiative established an industry-wide commitment to quality patents, emphasising a dedication beyond mere numerical filings. Our self-commitment extends to encouraging the patent office to actively engage in discussions with us, striving collectively for better patents. For us, the quality of patents is more important than timeliness; it is enforceable patents that are really good. We want to build an understanding of this.

So, how does it apply to India? Our discussions with the patent office align with the existing IP Five offices (IP5), representing the global patent offices. We anticipate the emergence of IP Six with the Indian patent office; indicative of the serious consideration India receives from international patent offices. We aspire to contribute to the harmonisation and elevation of quality standards globally. This is a dialogue we intend to have with the patent office here, and I can confidently say that in India, our perspective is heard.


And how does the adoption of the EPO Quality Charter work in collaboration with the patent office?

The initiative is industry-driven, purely nonprofit, and self-motivated. We, as industry representatives, typically Chief Intellectual Property Officers (CIPOs) or lead counsels in companies, engage with the patent offices to explain what quality means for us and them. While our primary focus has been on the EPO due to identified needs, we are open to similar discussions with any patent office globally.

Can you elaborate on the framework and key pointers that define the quality of patents?


Key pointers for us include well-searched cases with clarity, ensuring an unambiguous definition of claims and scope. We emphasise the importance of clarity as the patent office’s current approach sometimes lacks enforceability due to unclear language. Additionally, we advocate for thorough searches to prevent unexpected prior art challenges, which can be costly for startups investing in patents. Our emphasis is on complete prosecution, including examination, before granting.

We are not there to say you need to grant us a patent. We are there to ask for quality patents. Companies that are looking to achieve high numbers of patents are not part of this quality charter; Ericson also has high numbers and is part of the top 10, but we are not aiming for a volume game. Our quality demand contrasts with the current approach where timeliness is considered a measure of quality. The push for faster grants compromises the depth of examination, resulting in lower quality.

Are there specific parameters for evaluating the usefulness of patents?

Usefulness is evaluated based on whether patents read on a product or standard, focusing on enforceability and the novelty of patentability aspects. We do not want to have something in our portfolio that ends up becoming invalid because another publication or patent existed before. Hence, a complete search is essential. I know that the Indian Patent Office made its whole documentation available to the other patent offices to enable them to search. And that is very important. I am responsible for over 60,000 patents at Ericsson and the majority or nearly all of our portfolio is strong and enforceable; any patent found lacking is pruned. We recently conducted a significant pruning to remove patents that were not useful due to existing prior art.

Experts also point out that commercialisation of Standard Essential Patents (SEPs) may be useful for Indian startups in R&D. Can you elaborate on the potential benefits of this approach, especially for startups lacking production capabilities?

Production and patents are detached from each other, and for startups, creating a patent involves engaging in strong R&D. One needs to have good technology and work on it; a patent is always an accompanying product of strong R&D. In the case of Ericsson, the patent is a natural byproduct of our R&D investments to drive elite technology. Commercialisation is not the front end. However, if the technology is good, we commercialise it for a fair return on investment.

"We emphasise the importance of clarity as the patent office’s current approach sometimes lacks enforceability due to unclear language."

Our 5G products and portfolio exemplify this synergy. While commercialisation is important, the primary focus is on developing cutting-edge technology. For startups, having a strong patent, regardless of product presence, allows for licensing opportunities. Even if it later becomes a SEP patent, the focus should always be on technology development.

Can you provide insights into the significance of licensing within the global standardisation ecosystem, particularly in the context of ongoing investments in innovations like 6G, and how this contributes to fostering collaboration?

Currently, we are actively licensing our 5G patents, with ongoing discussions for new agreements. Simultaneously, we are investing in 6G and advancing 5G technologies. The licensing income generated allows us to afford these substantial investments in new R&D and technology for the upcoming years. The entire licensing narrative and standardisation are built on collaboration; it is not about one company driving a standard.

We encourage collaboration and let technology developments unfold organically. We do not push specific technologies from the IPR side; instead, we foster collaboration and later assess if we have patents related to those collaborative efforts. In Ericsson, this approach works seamlessly, with a wealth of patents supporting collaboration, and it extends beyond major competitors to include startups globally. Whether it is a startup from India or elsewhere, if they bring strong technology ideas to the standardisation process, we are open to collaboration. The essence is good technology fostering collaboration, and if such a company holds a patent, it enhances the collaboration further.

And what are the key technologies or areas that Ericsson is currently working on in terms of patents?

The process is driven by the technology Ericsson develops, and patents follow suit. For example, our CTO decides to involve AI, and then we work on patents related to AI. It is not a case of deciding to have patents in AI and then developing AI. Good patents follow good technology. Our primary focus areas include radio technology, telecommunications, and newer areas like AR and VR. The company’s technology councils drive decisions, and we align our patenting efforts with the company’s technology focus. It is a natural progression where technology comes first, and patents support and protect that technology.

Is Ericsson involved in any work related to Industry 4.0?

In Germany, we have a campus actively engaging with industries to create connected ecosystems. This involves dedicated networks, and we have a showcase in collaboration with the University of Aachen. We provide products to companies looking to connect their robots and sensors. Our involvement extends to working with Fraunhofer, and we are actively exploring industrial deployment, especially in the area of dedicated networks. The company is currently assessing business opportunities in this domain, and our dedicated networks allow companies to create connectivity for their factories.

As the driver of the patent initiative at Ericsson globally, how do you compare India’s IPR regime with the rest of the world?

India’s IPR regime has taken significant strides forward. In the past, we faced lengthy delays in case examinations, leading to uncertainty. However, the current scenario sees fast grants with good quality. There is an effort to harmonise results across different locations like Chennai and Delhi.

The Patent Office, through the hiring of numerous examiners, has expedited processes, and while the speed is impressive, it does not compromise the quality of decisions. We observe a keen interest among examiners in the field, contributing to good technology development. The strides made reflect a positive evolution in India’s IPR landscape.

Gabriele Mohsler

Vice President – Patent Development (IPR & Licensing), Ericsson