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MedTech & 5G Licensing Litigation

December 23, 2021

In an increasingly connected and digitized world, 5G is emerging as a driving force for innovation across industries such as medical technology (MedTech). As we are now in the early stages of the development and deployment of 5G technology, companies and legal teams in this space should be acquainting themselves with the specifics of 5g licensing, as it raises concerns about intellectual property litigation. 

The Power of 5G 

The foundational innovation of 5G is it provides exceptionally low latency, powering electronics with the ability to be controlled from long distances with minimal delay. In the healthcare field this can be used for a number of disruptive solutions, including remote surgery and real-time communication with ambulances and emergency medical services (EMS) workers.  

The technical solutions for remote surgeries are not new; however, testing has begun over the last couple of years to perform live surgery enabled by 5G. Huawei, a Chinese multinational technology corporation that provides 5G technology, conducted the first ever 5G-enabled surgery on an animal. This yielded impressive results, and shows great promise. 

Ambulances connected to each other and hospitals by 5G expand the possibilities of real-time emergency medical care. By connecting these vehicles with hospitals, paramedics are able to share images, medical records, and more, drastically increasing the amount of care they can provide before the patient even arrives at the hospital.  

IP Challenges 

While the promise that 5G advancements represent for MedTech is strong, massive infrastructure expansion is still necessary. The rollout of 5G infrastructure will be accompanied by IP complexities. The specifics of these complexities revolve around IP and antitrust law, and businesses planning to use 5G technology should consider how the growing number of related patents will impact their operations or present legal concerns.   

A small number of companies are driving the filing of patents and standardizations, with tens of thousands already declared. Companies like LG, Nokia, Samsung, ZTE, and Ericsson have filed a majority of the current patent declarations, focusing on everything from radio layer architecture to security applications. 

The sheer number of patent filings that are underway increases the likelihood of legal disputes. This is exacerbated by the array of use cases that 5G presents and the expected adoption across sectors. Many patent owners are suggesting that large licensing fees should be expected, but this will not deter adoption as companies likely will pass the cost onto consumers, similar to 4G adoption costs.  

Beyond the obvious financial benefits, it is in the best interest of the healthcare industry and 5G adoption overall for patent-holders to make their technology available via licensing. Licensing is becoming increasingly popular in Medtech, as large companies rush to get products to market before the technology becomes dated and new solutions emerge. Couple this rise in licensing with the competitive nature of the industry, and an increase in litigation becomes more likely.  

The ongoing 5G rollout is increasing the number of disputes in this area, as its standardization is touching more devices and technology than 3G or 4G ever did. While licensing agreements vary in content, the increasing need for them in MedTech presents a risk for companies unfamiliar with them. If a business sells devices or provides services that use the 5G standard, licenses will be required. 

5G technology is well-positioned to completely transform global operations across industries, with estimates it will contribute over $2 trillion to the global economy over the next 15 years. The impact of this will be felt the most in industries like MedTech, where expensive equipment features network-connectivity and large amounts of data usage. MedTech companies and their legal teams should prepare themselves by fully understanding licensing agreements and the risks associated with litigating disputes that arise as a result of them.  

For those that are unfamiliar with Round Table Group, for more than 25 years, we have helped litigators locate, evaluate, and employ the best and most qualified expert witnesses. Round Table Group is a great complement to any litigator’s quest for an expert witness and our search is always free of charge. Contact us at 202-908-4500 for more information or start your expert search now. 

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