As we rapidly advance through our technology-oriented world, it may not go unnoticed how each and every member of the digital society, be it company or individual, is constantly looking for ways to upgrade their networking systems in order to be more in-touch with the latest media hype. Needless to say, the new fifth-generation (5G) network has brought with it a great deal of media buzz, like most new technologies do. However, as more and more devices connect to 5G networks causing the world’s data to be accessible at large, the protection of intellectual property (IP) and issues pertaining to IP theft arise along with.
What is Intellectual property?
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) defines intellectual property as the creations of the mind, such as literary and artistic inventions, designs, symbols, or names and images used in commerce.
These ideas and inventions are protected by law, encouraging the creators, and enabling them to financially flourish from what they invent or create.
5G tech in India and its potential
For India to enjoy the privileges arising from 5G services, it is extremely essential for us to gain access to 5G aided technological devices, and for that, the network operators require the necessary 5G radio spectrum along with the rest of the latest network equipment. Although 5G phones are already available in India, courtesy of Chinese-owned “Realme” and “iQoo”, the 5G spectrum and the network equipment is still going to take a significant amount of time. Furthermore, according to the director-general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, the scarce availability of radio spectrum is likely to delay 5G rollout in India by five more years. 5G networks were expected to be tested and ready to be launched in India sometime by the end of 2020, or at least by the beginning of 2021, but according to the belief of a network equipment vendor from Sweden, 5G service is expected to be launched and ready for use in India only from 2022.
Union Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s vision of 5G tech for India was not just of services, but more about the establishment of Indian Intellectual property (IP) and patents in 5G technology. However, the progress of this particular vision may be possible only in a couple of decades, considering the current scenario. Indian companies are struggling to start trials and tests of 5G spectrums for which authorization was approved just recently, whereas other international companies, specifically the ones in China have conquered and secured thousands of patents and intellectual property in this particularly ground-breaking technology which will pave the way for the invention and creation of a sea of new products, innovations and services.
5G and IP theft concerns
From a global perspective, 5G tech raises intellectual property concerns due to the worry that since more and more companies and individuals connect to 5G, their main source being Chinese owned 5G vendors, the Chinese government may acquire easy access to the world’s data. Intellectual property must be safeguarded in order to avoid ideas and creations from being stolen. Furthermore, U.S cyber diplomat Robert Strayer is firm to state that “China has had a long history of undertaking IP theft to benefit its commercial interests.”
According to the U.S National Cyber Strategy, it was found that China’s history with IP theft was not restricted to only U.S based companies but that they have also been indulging in trillions of dollars’ worth of Intellectual property theft around the globe, hacking into systems of other companies with an aim to steal business patents and trademarks, etc.
As a matter of fact, according to an article by the National Law Review, the People’s Court of Nanshan District of Shenzhen recently issued a ruling deemed to be regarded as the first ever 5G criminal intellectual property law case in China. The defendants, Huang Mouyu and Wang Mou, were held guilty for stealing trade secrets valued at 4.3 million RMB related to a 5G antenna project named A8808 and were sentenced to three years of jail along with a 150,000 RMB fine.
Additionally, Huawei, the second largest smartphone manufacturer in the world was accused of stealing the arm of a robot that was invented by T-Mobile to test smartphones. According to the U.S government, Huawei had intentions of duplicating it. Similarly, in 2018, two Chinese government hackers were charged for theft of business and trade secrets from a wide range of telecom, medical aerospace, and other companies in places like Japan, Canada, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States.
China’s economy, being state-run, somewhat obscures the line between public and private sectors. For instance, according to U.S indictments, for more than five years the Chinese government used its Ministry of State Security to hack into a French aerospace company’s system in order to obtain access to advanced engine technology. One particularly high-profile incident occurred in 2018, when a Beijing-based company was found guilty of IP theft from a
U.S company. This incident reportedly caused the value of the Massachusetts-based company to fall by a heavy amount of approximately $1 billion including a loss of around 700 jobs, according to the evidence that was produced before the trial.
How should we prepare for our future with 5G?
India is currently struggling to handle the prospects of applying 5G, here are a few ways in which we can prepare ourselves to adapt to the future:
a.) Enactment of data protection laws in India will be a good start to solve the issue revolving around 5G and IP theft.
b.) India must invest more in development and research of technologies associated with critical infrastructure.
c.) To deal with the threat of certain technical companies leaking information, an agreement of a certain nature (no-backdoor) between the Indian government and telecom companies will ensure safety from unwanted theft.
To assume that 5G will provide faster connection speed and higher bandwidth as compared to previous generations would be deemed to be regarded as a gross understatement. 5G network on a global level will unify and bring together mobile communications. It is expected to enable the invention of thousands of new products, innovations, and services, increase productivity, and encourage new industries by helping them emerge.
However, from the aforementioned information, there is exceeding evidence of the tension between two of the largest economies of the world, but more so of the fact that the protection of intellectual property (IP) under law will play a remarkably significant role as we advance into our 5G filled future. Intellectual property theft is still an issue that requires an enormous amount of time with regards to its resolution.
As far as 5G technology is concerned, the world still has a long way to go in order to get accustomed to the benefits and the troubles that come along with its use, one such trouble being the concern of protection of IP in a global capacity. Although, a few of those issues can be resolved by enforcing data protection laws and other agreements between companies to prevent information from being leaked.
However, it goes without saying that the future holds extremely optimistic expectations out of 5G technology, from its highly anticipated blistering speed, to the belief that it has the potential to redefine the future by unifying and bringing together all network communications. Needless to say, the best is yet to come.
 Latha Jishnu, India’s 5G fantasy, (Tuesday 27 August 2019)
 Aaron Wininger, China Issues Ruling in First 5G Criminal Intellectual Property Law Case(Sunday, May 24, 2020)https://www.natlawreview.com/article/china-issues-ruling-first-5g-criminal-intellectual-property-law-case#:~:text=China%20Issues%20Ruling%20in%20First%205G%20Criminal%20Intellectual%20Property%20Law%20Case,Sunday%2C%20May%2024&text=The%20defendants%20had%20stolen%20trade,both%20were%20experts%20in%205G.
 Leigh Hartman, 5tech raises global IP concerns (Sept 10th 2019) https://share.america.gov/5g-tech-raises-global-intellectual-property-concerns/
 Drishti media, 5G: is India prepared? (25th Feb 2020)