Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Monday, June 18, 2007

What's the Matter With Standards in China?

When the question of standards is raised in China, officials and companies are quick to focus on one issue: intellectualy property rights.

A week of meetings in China--including discussions with officials from the State Council, the Beijing Municipality and national standards bodies--made clear that China's drive to develop its own technology standards (open and closed) is directly linked to its intent to avoid IPR owned by foreign companies. The issue is less about open verses closed, but standards with or without IPR.

China does not want its innovation, its industrial development beholden to others. And does not want to spend the next 20 years watching royalties and license fees flow overseas. Even pledges not to sue are unacceptable, which partly explains why China developed its own opendocument format instead of simply adopting ODF.

Hence, its move to open standards, and in particular standards without any IPR. China intends to level the playing field, at least within its borders, to the maximum extent possible. In fact, at least one official from a Chinese standards organization maintained that a standard is not "open" if it has any IPR in its specification.

China's influence over the direction and content of the standards debate will surely increase. And other governments will follow suit, insisting upon open standards unemcumbered by IPR. As these policies become reflected in procurement and the work of international standards bodies, it will drive changes in how companies develop and sell technology, at least those that want access to China's growing market.

Categories: openstandards, China

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