The concept of a patent pool is fairly new, if not totally unknown in the South African IP protection context.
The concept of a patent pool is however not new in the world. The first example of a patent pool date back to 1856 where sewing machine manufacturers, Grover, Baker, Singer, Wheeler and Wilson had patents and were in the process of instituting patent infringement actions against each other.
This obviously led to the danger that profits can be diluted because of legal fees.
The parties then entered into cross-licensing agreements to make technology available to each other whilst limiting cross-licensing fees and thereby to lower the costs of products to the consumer.
Another example of a patent pool dates back to 1917 when patent held by the Wright Company and the Curtiss Company hampered the development of new airplanes that were needed for World War I.
The solution was that the parties “pooled patents” by entering into cross-licensing agreements which allowed the relevant parties to use each other technologies whilst earning a realistic income from their patents.
In essence the basis of a patent pool is a cross licensing arrangement, to the benefit of the patent contributors and administered by an independent administrator.
However, in most instances patent pools are complex arrangements, which need to be set up by experienced practitioners in order to achieve their aims for the benefit of the contributors, and the end user, whilst avoiding anti-trust/price, fixing enquiries.
For more information on Patent Pools, Cross-Licensing, and Intellectual Partnering, you are welcome to contact Smit & Van Wyk, Inc.
Some of this information has been taken from Wikipedia, and for further reading, the following links make for interesting reading matter: