Many industries operate within a framework of agreed-upon standards. These standards facilitate interoperability of products and services provided by different players in the industry.
A familiar example is Wi-Fi, which allows a manufacturer such as Apple to produce mobile devices that can communicate with routers, manufactured by Cisco, to reach the Internet. Other examples of standards abound, including MPEG for file compression and JEDEC for computer memory devices.
Standards provide technical solutions that harmonize the operations and products of the various players so that they can expand their markets and improve their customers’ experience. However, standards must also account for critical factors such as safety, efficiency, cost, complexity, speed, power consumption, and myriad others. Technical solutions to these issues are often in the form of patent-protected innovations resulting from enormous investment in research and development.
Standards therefore require collaborative agreement between industry players and patent owners, and standard setting bodies (SSOs) must balance the conflicting interests of these parties when crafting standards. Thus while having a patent declared a “standard essential patent” (SEP) may be perceived to inflate the stature of the patent, the converse obligation on the owner of the SEP is to license the patent under FRAND terms—fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory. These, of course, are subject to interpretation, and can themselves fuel many disputes among the parties.
Khaled Shami is a Co-Founder at Shami Messinger PLLC. Active in Silicon Valley’s innovative environment for more than 20 years, Khaled’s technical expertise includes software and hardware, networking, cloud storage and computing, memory devices, EDA and circuit design, avionics and aeronautics, electro-optics, imaging, and medical devices.