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Mauricio A. Uribe is a partner at Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear LLP in Seattle, Washington. He is experienced in comprehensive client counseling with regard to all aspects of intellectual property, including technology and patent licensing and standards-based licensing, as well as on patentability, due diligence, and infringement mitigation matters. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In many industries, the formation of standards-setting organizations (SSOs) and the promulgation of technical standards can be considered critical to promoting the widespread adoption of various technologies. SSOs function as the mechanism in which a variety of companies collaborate to agree upon a common set of technological implementations embodied as technical standards. Once adopted, such technical standards can ensure that standards-compliant devices are interoperable, regardless of manufacturer. Additionally, technical standards beneficially increase product manufacturing volumes and mitigate switching costs between similar standards-compliant devices. Accordingly, standardization provides various companies/entities in a value chain—component providers, manufacturers, service providers/implementers, consumers—significant advantages from an engineering and business perspective.
The evolution of SSOs and technical standards related to wireless telecommunications exemplifies the engineering and business benefit of standardization. In the telecommunications industry, each major release of technical standards was commonly referred to as a separate generation of wireless standards, and the promulgation of standards relating to digital wireless telecommunications began with the second generation of technical standards.1 However, the second generation technical standards were often limited to adoption in specific geographic regions, with little or no collaboration between regions. For example, in the United States, wireless service providers had to select one of three second generation technical standards, which were incompatible with one another and with service providers in other regions. Thus, wireless devices compliant with Japanese technical standards were not operable in the United States or Europe, which conformed to different technical standards. Likewise, wireless devices compliant with technical standards adopted in the United States were not operable in Japan or Europe. Such incompatibility resulted in unsatisfactory experiences for the service providers and consumers alike. Accordingly, during the planning of future generation wireless standards, the regional SSOs focused on increased, global collaboration. The result of such collaborations was embodied in the more global, third and fourth generation wireless standards, which more likely reflect the intended benefit of standardization.2