Disclosure and Licensing of Patents in Standards
VITA is breaking new ground in the area of disclosure and licensing of patents in standards, becoming the first standards developer in the world to receive guidance for 'ex ante' procedures from any legal authority. The patent policy is included as part of the VSO Policies and Procedures .
The policy has significant impact in two areas. The first is the change from a voluntary system to a mandatory system of disclosing of essential patents and patent applications. The second area of impact is the Fair, Reasonable, And Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) disclosure of maximum fees or royalties and the most restrictive license terms for licenses to technology essential to implementation of a standard that is in development by a working group. Members to new working groups that form have 60 days to disclose essential patents or patent applications and license terms while members in existing working groups have 30 days.
“The objective of this policy change is to eliminate patent ambush,” stated Ray Alderman, executive director of VITA. “VSO working groups are expected to make sound technical and business decisions. Patent ambushes can delay or undermine the acceptance of new standards.”
In 2006, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) issued or reviewed these documents related to VITA and VSO activity.
- DOJ news release (PDF) from October 30, 2006
- DOJ business review letter (PDF) dated October 30, 2006, referenced in the news release
- Implementation Plan for VITA's Revised Patent Policy (PDF) posted December 18, 2006
In addition to the DOJ, there are other government agencies and other organizations reviewing VITA procedures, approval letters, and other documentation. Updates will be posted here as available to keep everyone informed of progress inside VITA, and with other agencies and organizations.
The VITA Board of Directors approved the changes to section 10 of the VSO Policies and Procedures on 21 November 2006.
On 17 Jan 2007, these changes were voted on and approved by the VSO, and the VITA Board of Directors and VITA attorneys were immediately informed of the results. VITA attorneys subsequently informed ANSI counsel and the ExSC (Executive Standards Council of ANSI), and submitted the required documentation in accordance with ANSI procedures and policies concerning "maintenance of accreditation".
On 30 January 2007, a joint FTC/DOJ informational hearing was held, which VITA attorneys attended.
On 31 May 2007, the ExSC of ANSI announced approval of the new policies and re-accreditation of VITA as an ANSI standards developer, effective as of May 22, 2007.
The VITA Standards Organization is currently operating under these approved policies and procedures, beginning with the January 2007 VSO meeting immediately after approval. As an aid to its membership, VITA has a training presentation (PDF) outlining the new policy for working group chairs and members.