Current Research Projects

Patent licensing

Within a few weeks German courts granted four injunctions against a German premium carmaker in 2020, sending shockwaves through the automotive industry. Several patent owners sued for infringement of standard-essential patents (SEPs) on LTE which is leveraged by telematic control units (TCUs), a part of today’s connected cars. Despite the argument that carmakers typically purchase components free of third party rights, thus, leaving full responsibility for licensing with suppliers, some patent owners refused to license suppliers. Based on the licensee's characteristics and level in the value chain, we distinguish two modes of patent licensing: integrated licensing, where the licensee is also the implementer of the patented knowledge (e.g., a carmaker taking a license for engine technology); and bifurcated licensing, where the implementer of the patented knowledge is upstream from and a supplier to the licensee (e.g., a carmaker taking a license for a TCU).
We investigate for SEPs and non-SEPs how common bifurcated licensing is, in which industries we observe it, and what its determinants are by applying a mixed-methods approach. Our analysis is based on a qualitative interview study and a quantitative study of patent license agreements. We want to derive implications from bifurcated licensing for IP managers and policy makers and contribute theoretically to research on value capture.

Contact: Adrian Göttfried

IoT infrastructure in Smart Cities – a survey

Many cities already engage in "Smart City" projects, invest money into the underlying IoT infrastructure or build data portals and applications for their citizens. While many of these cases have been discussed as case studies, we still lack a systematic assessment to understand: where are we currently standing with Smart City in Germany?

To fill this data gap we conduct a survey targeting German cities of different sizes. We aim to understand better, how prioritization of target groups, a cities' own resources and technology selection criteria ultimately shape the IoT infrastructure landscape, in particular with regards to Low-Power-Wide-Area networks. Which are the popular use cases and can we observe why certain infrastructure setups and use cases often go hand in hand? 

Contact: Lucia Baur

Reconciling Strategy Making and Idea Generation

It is an ongoing struggle for many firms to align their business strategy with their innovation strategy. In order to address this issue, we collaborate closely with a large technology-driven firm that is confronted with the linkage of high-level strategy-making and the set up of new innovation projects. New innovation projects demand the generation of novel ideas to identify and realize growth potential. Thus, we employ Design Thinking principles to catalyze the idea-finding process, while Blue Ocean principles assist in mapping these ideas according to the firm's current (or reoriented) business strategy. In that way, we address the question of how to move forward and implement specific innovation projects coherent with the firm’s current or newly defined business strategy. Our framework illustrates how methods for innovation (Design Thinking) and business strategy (Blue Ocean) can be leveraged to align the strategic and the tactical side of innovation.

Contacts: Georg Windisch and Sonja Förster

OSS Compliance Certification

As many companies increasingly use OSS in their products and contribute to OSS communities, OSS compliance is gaining importance. When incorporating OSS in their products and business operations, companies have to meet the OSS license requirements, such as providing required copyright notices and making the source code available to others. Infringement of license agreements may incur drastic consequences, including termination of user rights, prohibition of redistribution of modified versions, and even compensation claims. The aim of OSS compliance processes in companies is to minimize the risks when using and implementing OSS.

Since 2020, an official ISO standard for OSS compliance is available (ISO 5230) and companies have the possibility to obtain the corresponding certification. The certification acknowledges that companies have certain measures in place to ensure compliance with OSS requirements, such as a written OSS policy, clearly defined roles and responsibilities regarding OSS compliance, and a process for reviewing identified licenses. The certification can be obtained through free self-certification (answering an online questionnaire) or through certification by a third party.

In this research project, we are interested in the importance of OSS compliance in the software supply chain, which often involves long-term B2B partnerships. In other words, does OSS compliance play a role for companies when selecting software suppliers? Further, we want to find out under which conditions OSS compliance certification has additional value for companies.

Contact: Juliane Wissel

Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) for the Internet-of-Things (IoT)

Not all use cases in the IoT rely on high data transmission rates, in fact many transmit small information packages (e.g., sensor data like temperature or humidity) but are very restricted in their power consumption because they run on conventional batteries. Often those sensors are meant to run on a single battery for years and thus they operate in extremely low power modes. LPWANs combine the advantages of low power consumption with very long transmission ranges and thus are enablers for many IoT applications like smart cities, agriculture but also asset monitoring. We aim to shed light on the ecosystems and platforms around the different LPWANs (e.g., LoRaWAN, Sigfox) and how innovation happens in those.

Contact: Lucia Baur

Blockchains, smart contracts, and trust

In the past year be hailed to turn our world of business upside down: whatever the question was, blockchain was the answer. Supposedly, blockchain technology has the power to remove the necessity of trust from transactions, remove central intermediaries, and thereby dramatically reduces transaction costs. So far, however, we have seen only a few of these promises coming to reality. With our research want to contribute to a better understanding of the real potential of this new technology and its limitations. In one of our recent papers, we scrutinized the claim that smart contracts on a blockchain can remove the necessity of trust from transactions. Based on real-world data retrieved from the Ethereum blockchain, we could show under what conditions this claim is true and under what conditions conventional trust in the party offering the service will still be necessary. Further, we could also show that smart contracts lead to a new type of trust that is not based on subjective characteristics of transacting parties but on properties of the smart contract that can be processed with pure logic. This understanding is crucial for future companies that want to build blockchain applications and should help them build more successful blockchain applications.

Contact: Daniel Obermeier