Posts tagged "ISO"

The Business of Standards, Part Two: The Catalyst for Change

The proliferation of Standards Setting Organizations (SSOs) began in the mid-1980s as a response to a perceived threat by the Japanese Fifth Generation Computer Systems project (FGCS) to the U.S. semiconductor industry. Several major U.S. chip and computer makers decided that a joint research initiative would help them meet the threat to U.S. chip making dominance. Unfortunately, U.S. law considered joint activities of this type to be in violation of anti-trust and anti-competitive laws. The remedy to this issue was to pass enabling legislation (National Cooperative Research Act of 1984, Pub L. No. 98-462) (NCRA) which allowed the creation of consortia for joint research and development.  Soon afterward, the Microelectronics and Computer Consortium (MCC) was created to engage in joint research in multiple areas of computer and chip design.

It should be noted that – at this time – the formal standards organizations in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) had significant standardization activities occurring – especially in the area of the Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) arena.  Recognizing that the environment was becoming more important to business, the leaders of the ISO and IEC IT standards bodies proposed a merger of the ISO and IEC committees – creating the first (and so far, only) Joint Technical Committee  (ISO/IEC  JTC1) to make standardization easier.

However, the formalists failed to provide adequate testing and verification of the very complex Open Systems Interconnect standards, and this need was quickly met by the Corporation for Open Systems (COS), (1986), a consortium of suppliers and users to ensure that OSI implementations were interoperable.  Although short lived (in standards years), COS showed the way for the use of the NCRA to be used “differently.” It showed that a private organization (a consortium) could accomplish quickly what the formal standards organizations couldn’t – and do it with a highly focused approach that didn’t need all the “international” approvals and compromise.

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw an explosion of similar organizations – all of which were created by companies to “expedite” time to market (as well as the creation of the market, it was hoped). The most successful of these was the Object Management Group (OMG) founded in 1989 to create a heterogeneous distributed object standard. The Manufacturing Automation Protocol/Technical Office Protocol (MAP/TOP), championed by GM and Boeing respectively, came to life during this time, as did the User Alliance for Open Systems. There were also consortia created to push a particular provider’s technology (88open Consortium and SPARC International come to mind).

Of course, these groups began to strain the limits of the 1984 cooperative R&D legislation, so Congress modified the law in 1993 and passed the National Cooperative Production Amendments of 1993, Pub. L. No. 103-42, which amended the National Cooperative Research Act of 1984, Pub L. No. 98-462 and renamed it the National Cooperative Research and Production Act of 1993. (NCRPA)

And it is this Act that most consortia use to legitimize their existence. It provides limited immunity from anti-trust, provides some cover for anti-competitive behavior, and provides a basis for an organizational framework upon which to build your own consortium. However, this is not the end of the quest for “the nice thing about standards is that you have so many to choose from” syndrome. While the tools and mechanism for creating a consortium were now in place, the actual creation takes a little more effort.

The next post will look at how the “business of standards” has grown in the 20 years since the NCRPA was passed – and how consortium have changed standardization in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) world.

Carl Cargill
Principal Scientist

The Internet, Standards, and Intellectual Property

The Internet Society recently issued a paper on “Intellectual Property on the Internet“,written by Konstantinos Komaitis, a policy advisor at the Internet Society. As the title of the paper indicates, the paper focuses on only one policy issue – the need to reshape the role and position of intellectual property. The central thesis of the paper is that “industry-based initiatives focusing on the enforcement of intellectual property rights should be subjected to periodic independent reviews as related to their efficiency and adherence to due process and the rule of law.”

The author cites the August 2012 announcement of “The Modern Paradigm for Standards Development” which recognizes that the economics of global markets, fueled by technological advancements, drive global deployment of standards regardless of their formal status. In this paradigm, standards support interoperability, foster global competition, are developed through an open participatory process, and are voluntarily adopted globally.” These “OpenStand” principles were posited by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the Internet Society, and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Komaitis conveniently overlooks the nearly 700 other organizations (formal and otherwise) that develop standards. And that nearly all industries depend upon standards. And that governments are aware of the power of standards to create economic policy and drive and sustain economic growth. Instead, the author focuses on one small aspect of standards – intellectual property.

Another issue conveniently overlooked is how to fund standards development. Komaitis asserts that “…industry-based initiatives ….should be subjected to periodic independent reviews… ” He misses the fact that industry funds nearly all of the standards organizations in existence. Absent industry funding for participants, charging for standards, and acceptance of standards in product creation, would cause the entire standardization arena to become extinct.

The author seems to be arguing for a revision of intellectual property rights (IPR) rules in standardization – when, in fact, there is no real demand from the industry as a whole. Komaitis is really asking for an “intellectual property rights carve out” for standards related to the Internet. Looking at the big picture, the plea that it is necessary to rejigger world-wide IPR rules to prevent putting the State or courts “in the awkward position of having to prioritize intellectual property rights over the Internet’s technical operation…” seems trite and self-serving.

There is a claim that “the Internet Society will continue to advocate for open, multi-participatory and transparent discussions and will be working with all stakeholders in advancing these minimum standards in all intellectual property fora.” Perhaps the Internet Society could look at what already exists in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) or the World Trade Organization (WTO) or perhaps even the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to see how a majority of the “stakeholders” worldwide already deal with these issues – and then maybe get back to actually solving the technical issues at which the IETF excels.

Carl Cargill
Principal Scientist


Understanding the Updated EU Standardization Regulation


After many months of negotiations, the European Union (EU) in September 2012 published its new Standardisation Regulation, which aims to address some of the major systemic challenges in European Commission (EC) standardization.

By creating a mechanism whereby EU legislation can reference, for the first time, standards created in “informal” (i.e. non-commission sponsored) fora or consortia, the new regulation should address the issues with speed and flexibility which have become apparent, particularly for the always-evolving Information and Communications Technology (ICT) space. At the same time, ensuring funding for a broad range of organizations that might otherwise lack the means to participate in standardization processes – subject matter experts (SMEs), consumer groups and other civil society representatives – the regulation aims to ensure a balanced representation of interests; however, there are a number of other interesting features of the regulation which are worth examining.

The regulation allows public procurement processes in the EU to reference technical specifications developed by bodies other than the three formal European Standards Bodies (ESBs) [1], where no EU standard exists. Strict criteria in Annex II of the regulation define the type of body whose technical specifications are eligible for adoption in this way. The strong reference to FRAND (Fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms) is significant, given the many years of wrangling over the lacklustre support for that concept in the Commission’s own IT procurement processes. It is an important recognition by the Commission of the value of intellectual property rights (IPR) produced in Europe, and that inventors deserve a chance to monetize their creations.

That said, any technical specification produced by a “non-official standards organization” hoping to be referenced in an EU public procurement tender, will need to run the gauntlet of a new “Multi-Stakeholder Forum” (MSF) comprising 67 representatives from national governments, trade associations and assorted industry representatives. It’s still too early to tell how this consultative body will work in practice, but observers will be keen to see how the group reaches consensus as to whether a technical specification meets the criteria for adoption and should be endorsed by EC legislation. Adopting standards that are actually used in the real world, and where the completeness of the specification is evidenced by multiple independent implementations, is a valuable objective, and one which is already a part of many standard development organizations.

Thanks to another change, technical specifications for reference in public procurement can refer to the expected interoperability or environmental performance of a product or service. This is in line with planned changes to EU Public Procurement Directives, but any change to existing criteria will take time for industry to fully understand, particularly where subjective and politically-sensitive terms like “interoperability” are concerned.

Another less commented development is the more formal advisory role accorded to the EU’s scientific research bodies, to ensure that the standards developed by the ESBs take into account “economic competitiveness… and safety and security concerns.” In an ideal world, scientific advice is, of course, objective and neutral. When linked to standards used to determine market access, that objectivity is even more critical and, potentially, more elusive. Developments in the Cloud Computing space are likely to be an early test of the EU’s ability to adopt a truly global approach.

(1) There are three European Standards Bodies: CEN (European Committee for Standardisation), CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization) and ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute). These three bodies are Brussels-based organizations which the European Union has recognized as the creators of European standards. As intended, CEN was to be an ISO analogue, CENELEC an IEC analogue, and ETSI an ITU-T analogue.

 John Jolliffe
Senior Manager, European Government Affairs