What is it about?
Standard setting is considered an inevitable process nowadays. It enables the interoperability of products and services from different vendors. The telecommunication sector, for example, is heavily penetrated by standards, including USB, 3G, 4G, USTM and many others. Standards make it possible for telecommunication devices, such as smart phones, to work almost anywhere in the world and run applications from a plurality of software developers. If a standard cannot be applied without using a patent, the industry terms such a patent a “standard-essential patent”. Such patents may conflict with the need for market participants or entrants to have access to standards.
Why is it important?
This situation is particularly critical in areas where standards have obtained market- or industry-wide recognition and where products that do not provide “standard compliance” may therefore be unsalable. This is an important issue, particularly given the ongoing patent wars relating to smart phones and tablets taking place in the German courts and elsewhere.