On Monday this week I attended the workshop jointly organised by the European Commission and the European Patent Office (EPO) on “Tensions between Intellectual Property Rights and the ICT standardisation process: reasons and remedies”. It was a very interesting conference with an impressive set of speakers. Regarding the agenda this conference built nicely on the one on IPRs and ICT standardisation of November 2008 looking more closely and some of the issues that had then been identified.
Very briefly, I noted the following seven points as key items coming out of the discussion. They are all very important and I consider this an excellent result of the conference:
- Problem areas do exist and there is need for action both from public authorities, from standards bodies and from the EPO.
- Progress is made in several organisations regarding improved IPR databases and the collaboration with EPO on this. The ETSI DARE project for restructuring the ETSI database was given as a prime example.
- The EU patent would be a significant step forward. It is also one example for government action.
- The concept of a License of Right is worth pursuing. It would be viable method for ensuring the availability of patents for standardisation. There were several supporter of this in different panels.
- The topic of ex ante declaration of licensing terms remains disputed. Yet, there seems to be a dividing line between software standardisation on the one hand and telecommunication on the other hand.
- Regarding open source the key issue is not to use and implement open source technologies in proprietary offerings but it is for open source communities to implement standards that are available only at FRAND terms.
- The idea for a Software Interoperability Directive was brought forward that governs that standards for software interoperability should be available under terms and conditions that allow their implementation in open source.
There was one presentation that – to my mind – did not quite fit into the respective panel but that was interesting for for another reason. A gentleman representing a consortium (that he several times called himself a “club”) explained that this “club” produced a specification and then collaborated with Cenelec for transposing it into an EN. So far so good. But the representative clearly stated that his consortium, which is a for-profit organisation, uses this standard for doing certifications. This is frightening and, in fact, in my mind to some extend an abuse of standardisation. This example once again illustrates the justification of the requirement for Open Standards that they are developed in non-profit organisations.
The Commission and EPO announced that they are going for a follow-on conference next year with a focus on the international dimension which as not covered by the agenda this time.
I believe that this Monday's conference, however, produced already a number of results that are critical items and that the Commission and EPO will start working on right away. My seven points above might give an indicator of those critical items. And perhaps some intermediate results can already be presented at the conference next year.
A further outcome, out of my perspective, is that the issues identified are not crucial for the revision of the European standardisation system that has been ongoing since 2006 and is supposed to be finalised by mid 2011. And I'd like to repeat: the ICT sector is in urgent need of reforms concerning the EU ICT standardisation policy as proposed in the Commission's ICT White Paper of 2009.