Embedded Technology/IP

Technology or features embodying intellectual property designed into commercially available components, for example microprocessors (microchips). For example, economies of scale mean that chip makers do not like to design or create microchips for relatively small buyers – preferring to offer them existing ‘off the shelf’ components. However, large scale purchasers can demand that a single component (i.e., chips) include multiple functions – for example, combining WiFi and Bluetooth in a single device, or voice and data functions in a single cellular baseband, all solutions that offer economies to the large buyer and which may use common components such as antennas. Often this combination will be demanded by large scale buyers who also hold essential patents on some of the embedded features. These components made for large scale buyers are then available to the smaller buyers ‘off the shelf’ including elements of the ’embedded technology’ or ’embedded IP’ that the smaller buyer may want and use, or may have no interest in – but a component including it is cheaper than one without – and indeed components without the embedded IP may not even be readily available.

Thus a result of embedding technology is that it cannot readily be avoided by smaller scale buyers of a component (e.g., a microprocessor), even if they do not need or intend to use all of the features of the component. In effect a buyer may find that it has bought a product containing technology that it does not use, that is subject to Essential Patents, or alternately that the implementation embedded in the only component that is commercially available infringes the patents of the large specifying buyer, even though not subject to any Essential Patent and thus not subject to FRAND terms. Patents on such embedded technology thus become Near Essential Patents. Sometimes the embedded technology may be disabled by ‘metalling out.’

Embedded technology in the intellectual property context should not be confused with embedded systems, which are typically components incorporating a discrete technology within a larger product – f(or example the antilock brake system is typically an embedded system within a vehicle), usually in the form of a dedicated micro controller that supplies specific functions. Embedded systems can range in complexity from providing very basic functionality to critical control systems and subsystems.

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