Updating a Patent Policy: The IEEE Experience

This article is part of a Chronicle. See more from this Chronicle

Michael Lindsay, Konstantinos Konstantinos, Mar 31, 2015

The pages of this two-part issue of the CPI Antitrust Chronicle provide one more example of the continuing and wide-ranging debate about the intersection of patents and standards. Debate can certainly be healthy, but standards development organizations live in the real world—one in which courts and regulators have criticized existing SDO policies as lacking clarity. At some point, an SDO must decide whether its existing patent policy provides sufficient clarity to the holders of potentially essential patents and to the companies that implement its standards—or whether an update of that SDO’s patent policy is warranted.

The IEEE Standards Association recently completed an update of its patent policy, and the update took effect on March 15, 2015. Many other SDOs either have been engaged in similar reviews or may soon do so. Each SDO starts from a different baseline (its own existing policy), and each SDO has its own procedures for policy updates. The IEEE-SA experience, however, may provide some useful guidance as other SDOs address the issues under their own policies and procedures.