Lawrence Horn

You have been at the forefront of the US licensing scene for many years now – what changes have you observed in how businesses approach licensing over that time?

Qualities that MPEG LA introduced to the market have transformed how businesses approach licensing. Among these are transparency and trust in recognition that licensees are customers with the desire and the right to know what they are buying; defined parameters and fields of use giving customers full understanding of what is included and excluded from licence coverage; non-discriminatory, non-exclusive access delivering market convenience and freedom to operate; most favourable royalty rates; clear licence grants; confidentiality of licensee data free of competition concerns that only an independent licensing administrator can assure; impartiality; and reasonable pricing acceptable to a mass market.

As proud as we are of our contributions to fair dealing, which have made the market more reliable and trusted, we are prouder still of revolutionising the way that patent holders, developers and users think about the IP market, creating reasonable access and profitable opportunities for everyone. For inventors, research institutions and other technology owners, this has enabled them to identify and accredit the mass market innovation appeal of their IP assets and to package, monetise and speed their market adoption, giving thousands of licensees the convenience of a one-stop licence on the same reasonable terms, worldwide access to important intellectual property that would not otherwise be available to them, freedom to operate, reduced litigation risk and predictability.

As patent pools become a more established part of the commercial landscape, what emerging trends do you think will shape how they develop next?

Patent pools began with a reputation for principles, expectations and trust consistent with competition law guidelines and fair dealing on which the market came to rely. The question posed by the present market is whether that trust will be lost to patent assertion business models dressed in patent pool clothing. Efforts to re-enact historic results without underlying values confuse the reasons for the creation and success of patent pools. Their purpose was to provide interoperability with reasonable access to important technology, but a patent pool established for the purpose of revenue generation that does not solve a market problem will do neither.

Although it will require modification to an old business model that clings to exclusivity, with time and circumstance that MPEG LA has nurtured for over 25 years, the pool licensing model may spread eventually to biotechnology, starting with platform technologies in lieu of standards that spawn therapeutic development and delivery. When that happens, it will be because rights holders find that they can generate more revenue with less risk from adoption of their technologies by multiple adopters than they can from relying solely on their own development or direct licensing efforts.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing your clients right now?

In the pursuit of business predictability and freedom to operate that pools were meant to deliver, the biggest challenge facing our clients right now is determining whether a patent pool is established for the mutual benefit of licensors and licensees.

If you could change one thing about the global licensing market, what would it be – and do you think that it is likely to happen?

A fair, cost-effective and reliable system of patent enforcement in each country, where the same principles including the availability of injunction in one jurisdiction are applied by others with deference to whether a licence is FRAND based on its market acceptance. But, unfortunately, I do not see that happening.

In addition, I continue to worry that the current patent system is at risk of becoming obsolete for other reasons, including IP disclosure and protection systems that fail to keep pace with the technologies they were intended to cover, limited accessibility favouring those with deep pockets to afford or avoid them, and the growing irrelevance of patents among other available IP options to incentivise those who bring disruptive innovations to market.

What has been your career highlight to date?

The best validation of a product’s value is that someone buys it. My career highlight to date has been the opportunity to introduce transparency, communication and other fundamental marketing principles to the licensing of MPEG LA pools, with the result that over 7,200 licensees have validated our products by signing and paying for the licences we offer to address the challenges they face in pursuit of their market aspirations and the creation of products that benefit consumers.

Lawrence Horn

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Larry Horn is president and CEO of MPEG LA, the world’s leading independent provider of one stop licences for standards and other technology platforms. MPEG LA pioneered the modern-day patent pool, helping to produce the most widely used standards in consumer electronics history with transparent licensing solutions that provide access to important intellectual property, freedom to operate, reduced litigation risk and predictability. MPEG LA also works in groundbreaking technologies including biotechnology, telecommunications infrastructure and electric vehicles.

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