You are here

The Standardization Ecosystem: Policy and Patents

Series Topic


Standards have been crucial to the advancement of commerce and therefore the welfare of mankind. Take the example of railways. As railways developed and expanded, one of the key issues was the track gauge (the distance, or width, between the inner sides of the rails) to be used. From the early 1800’s starting in England and since then, the result was the adoption throughout a large part of the world of a “standard gauge” of 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in, allowing inter-connectivity and inter-operability.  Equally and perhaps even more important are measurement standards e.g., physical standards for length, mass or temperature.  Metric systems of units have evolved since the adoption of the first well-defined system in France in 1795. During this evolution the use of the metric systems has spread throughout the world, first to non-English-speaking countries, and then to English speaking countries. In these two examples, worldwide adoption of similar standard measures was generally through commercial osmosis necessitated by the minimal interruption to the exchange of goods between countries and different regions of the world.

In the modern communication sector, ordinary citizens are familiar with the visible and ubiquitous nature of WiFi and cellular networks.  Making these indispensable modern conveniences happen are many standards that govern spectrum usage, wavelengths/frequencies, data structure, error correction, packet transmission, and numerous other technologies of both the wireless and underlying wireline transmission systems.  (One can also speak the same to the successful permeation in the use of the Internet.) While some aspects are led by governments (such as spectrum allocation), the overwhelming majority of standards are set by industry players coming together in global standards organizations such as the ITU, IETF, IEEE, ISO, IEC, W3C, etc., whose main goal is to develop standards that can be adopted voluntarily in countries worldwide, again for inter-connectivity and inter-operability. In some countries, the government may choose to play a stronger role in certain sectors (such as information security) or aspects (conformance and testing) of the standards ecosystem.

With advanced technologies increasingly being incorporated into standards, naturally there is an ongoing and robust dialog about different models for access to such technologies by implementers.  These can be patented technologies or copyrighted software.  Standards organizations have intellectual property rights (IPR) policies to govern such matters, predicated on patents essential to standards to be licensable on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms (FRAND or RAND which may include royalty-free or RF).  While nearly all such discussions are at the commercial level between industry players themselves, governments can also engage in this matter through opinions and actions of policy makers, enforcement or regulatory agencies or through the legal system of courts if commercial disputes rise to that level.

In this Communication Standards Magazine, the topic of Policy and Patents aims to provide a forum for the expression of diverse viewpoints on approaches, policies and regulations, SDO IPR policies, economic impact and any interplay between them in all regions of the world.  Contributions from industry, academia and others are all welcome.

Topics of interest may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • The standardization ecosystem in a particular country/region of significant commercial interest
  • Comparative analysis of different policies/approaches to specific standardization areas, such as 5G, IoT, security, conformance testing, etc.
  • The intersection of conventional standards development process and alternative approaches (such as open source software)
  • Case studies and other examples of how SDOs address the challenge of making SDO participants and contributors, particularly engineers and other technical experts, aware of IPR policies and their impacts.
  • SDO IPR policies and how they vary across countries or different regions of the world, by technology sectors or other factors.
  • Views/actions of governments and courts relating to Standard Essential Patents (SEP)


Hung Ling

Ajit Jillavenkatesa