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IEEE Statement Regarding Updating of its Standards-Related Patent Policy

23 July 2014 - The rules for the use of proprietary technologies in complex, collaborative technology platforms, such as ICT standards, should ensure an appropriate balance between the interests of technology developers, standards implementers, and consumers. To achieve this goal, the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) has been motivated by three complementary concerns.

First, IEEE-SA was the first Standards Development Organization (SDO) to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with a patent office (European Patent Office) in 2010 to improve the quality of standards-related patents and to reduce patent-related uncertainty in the field of standards.

Second, because of its unique position as a neutral forum within which standards are developed based on due process, openness, transparency, broad consensus-building, and balance without dominance, IEEE-SA’s opinion has been provided to the judiciary, legislators, and regulators in a number of jurisdictions.

Finally, IEEE-SA holds that standards-related patent rules should be broadly applicable but also as clear as possible to improve predictability, achieve universal availability, and increase the likelihood of a standard’s adoption by the market.

Since the last update of IEEE-SA’s patent policy, implemented in 2007, judicial decisions and dialogue within regulatory agencies worldwide have focused mainly on three areas: how are rights to use technology transferred, what are “reasonable” licensing terms, and when an order precluding use of patented technology is appropriate in the context of standardization.

The current exercise in the revision of IEEE-SA’s patent policy attempts to improve clarity precisely around these three topics, which have also challenged other SDOs. IEEE-SA, as a prominent global SDO, is keeping pace with developments in addressing the challenges currently affecting the arena of standards-related patents. While IEEE does not comment on the status of the current draft or its wording, it supports the general direction of this effort by
IEEE-SA.

The process for updating IEEE-SA’s patent policy follows the volunteer-driven governance model of IEEE-SA, where drafts are discussed and prepared at various governance levels of decision making (ad hoc committees, the IEEE-SA Standards Board Committees, and the IEEE-SA Standards Board). The final decision to approve an updated version, which is an amendment to Section 6 of the IEEE Standards Association Standards Board Bylaws, would be made by IEEE-SA’s elected Board of Governors.

During the process, which began in March 2013, every interested party has been able to submit written comments on several occasions. Each one of the hundreds of comments submitted during the first three public reviews has received a written answer. All comments and answers are accessible to all interested parties and the general public.

IEEE-SA’s process for updating its patent policy is still under way. The next phase of review is an open discussion of the current draft, which was submitted by the IEEE-SA Patent Committee to the IEEE-SA Standards Board on 12 June 2014. This discussion will take place at the next IEEE-SA Standards Board meeting in Beijing on 20 and 21 August 2014.

 

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Monika Stickel
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