A lawsuit reveals why standards organizations need strong policies on intellectual property.
I've decided to create a new series in my blog that gives real world, real time examples of The Ten Commandments for Effective Standards in action. As I see activities, successes, and challenges in the standards game that pertain to one of the "commandments," I'll point them out. If you come across any good examples, be sure to let me know and I'll be glad to write about them (and give you credit, of course).
A few weeks ago, an instance of the second commandment--Use Caution When Mixing Patents and Standards--arose as Microsoft filed a lawsuit against Motorola. Microsoft is claiming that Motorola broke its promises to the IEEE-SA and ITU to offer a Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (RAND) license to Motorola's patents that Motorola identified as being related to WLAN and H.264 video compression. Motorola denies the claim and says its licensing is reasonable.
For countless reasons, I won't make any judgments on which company is right or wrong or the shades of gray in between. However, I do want to emphasize that this suit (among so many others) is the reason why a standards organization's intellectual property policy is so important. The IP policies of the IEEE-SA and ITU will likely play a key role as this dispute is resolved. As Yatin Trivedi said when he sent me the link to an article about the lawsuit, "Maybe this suit (and its settlement) will give new understanding of the IP policy in standards organizations."
There are surely high stakes to be won or lost in the Microsoft vs. Motorola suit because the consumer electronic products industry is massive. And the big question is who's to decide what RAND really is? The answer will be up to the courts.
Karen Bartleson is senior director of community marketing at Synopsys, Inc. and author of The Ten Commandments for Effective Standards. Her blog for Synopsys is called The Standards Game.