Intellectual Property Disclosure in Open Standards Development

Firms typically want to know whether a technology is covered by Intellectual Property (IP) rights before making it an industry standard. To promote transparency, Standard Setting Organizations require participants to disclose their IP during technical deliberations. We study the effectiveness of these policies. Specifically, we examine a large sample of IP disclosures and find that these declarations are often not very informative. The majority of disclosure statements do not list any specific piece of IP, or offer information on pricing beyond a commitment to license on “reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms. We also link the disclosure data to administrative records from the Internet Engineering Task Force, and find that unless there is a commitment to royalty-free licensing, disclosures reduce the probability that a proposal becomes a standard. Thus, while many firms remain reluctant to reveal IP, under the right conditions disclosure policies seem able to promote ex ante technological competition within SSOs.

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