ETSI Officials Say IPR Policy A Foundation Of Successful Telecoms Standards14/03/2016 by Dugie Standeford for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Much of our best content is available only to IP Watch subscribers. We are a non-profit independent news service, and subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now.Standards developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute for industries such as the mobile communications sector are underlain by an intellectual property rights policy that has proved successful for many years, ETSI officials said at an 11 March Oxfirst webinar. Most profit-seeking companies would prefer having a monopoly through proprietary solutions to cooperating through standards, said ETSI Chairman Dirk Weiler, who is head of standards management and horizontal in Nokia’s network business.But market success requires economies of scale, customers want more competition, particularly in the telecom arena, and governments don’t want companies locking themselves into proprietary technologies, he said.ETSI has been very successful in writing standards, particularly in the area of mobile communications, Weiler said. Figures from the GSM Association show that there are 7.7 billion mobile connections and 4.7 billion unique mobile subscribers globally, and that the sector brought in revenues last year of more than $1 trillion, he said.This “very dynamic and successful” business is based on standardisation, he said. Standards are “the core of this whole industry.”ETSI is home for many diverse technologies in addition to mobile communications, including machine-to-machine, cable networks, and intelligent transport, said Weiler. Its 800 or so members, from 64 countries, include manufacturers, network operators, service and content providers, national administrations, government ministries, universities, user groups, consultancies and researchers.“Consensus is the fundamental principle for any type of decision-making in ETSI,” including IPR policy changes, said Weiler. ETSI’s IPR policy has undergone significant changes over the past 20 years but they have all come about through a consensus-based process, he said.Developing standards means complying with some technical specifications to ensure that devices are interoperable, said ETSI Legal Director Christian Loyau, also legal director at technology development company Bull-Atos.Such technical requirements can be protected by standards-essential patents (SEPs). If an SEP is involved in a particular standard, it must be licensed from the patent owner. When a standard is under development, the different stakeholders need to know as early as possible what SEPs are involved and how they can have access to them, Loyau said.It was clear from the start that ETSI needed an IPR policy to ensure that stakeholders’ investments in specific technologies weren’t wasted, he said.ETSI set up a “FRAND” (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) licensing regime, said Loyau. If a particular patent disclosed to the standards-setting body isn’t available through FRAND, there is an ETSI mechanism for gaining access to it or coming up with an alternative solution, he said.SEPs – whether patents or patent applications – are registered in a database which now holds around 2000 declarations. ETSI checks with various patent offices, particularly the European Patent Office, that each patent’s numbering and other information are correct, but doesn’t vet the quality of the patent, he said.Nor does ETSI involve itself in any commercial discussions on IPR matters, such as licence terms and conditions, said Loyau. The complexity of the products being created today has increased, boosting the number of declared SEPs in ETSI’s database, he said. That can make licensing discussions complicated, but ETSI’s FRAND system has so far been shown to work despite some problems, he said.One such problem arises from the fact that in the past, “most big mobile phone standard implementers were at the same time also very actively contributing” their technology to the standards development process, but this hasn’t been the case for a few years, Weiler told us later. That means there are more fights over what is a fair and reasonable rate, leading to an increasing number of lawsuits between big players who are no longer agreeing licences by negotiation, he said.The IPR policy is “more or less constantly reviewed,” said Loyau. ETSI’s IPR Committee is now attempting to increase the transparency of the SEP database, he said.Asked whether ETSI’s IPR policy is compatible with IEEE’s patent policy – which was challenged by some companies before the American National Standards Institute – Loyau said IEEE has never sought a cooperative agreement with ETSI, so the issue hasn’t come up. ETSI has a memorandum of understanding with IEEE, which was recently renewed, he said.When ETSI enters into a cooperative agreement with an international or regional standards development organisation, it must vet that body’s IPR policy, said Loyau. There is no requirement that partners’ IPR policies be identical to ETSI’s but they must be compatible, said Weiler. 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