Changing the Rules of the Game Ex-post: SDO Governance and Why It Matters

21 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2020

Date Written: July 28, 2019


For many years, technical standards development has been a little-understood but critical step in producing the mobile technology crucial to everyday life. Developing new technologies and reaching consensus for their inclusion in international technical standards is no easy task; the standards development process can require hundreds of thousands of engineering person-hours in meetings alone (and multiple times this effort in R&D leading to those meetings), where typically the best technology is selected by consensus or majority votes. Typically, development of technical standards proceeds under principles of openness, transparency, balance, due process, and consensus-based decision-making. These principles promote competition by ensuring participation by a broad range of interested stakeholders in a process that takes into account the “views of all parties concerned” and seeks “to reconcile any conflicting arguments.” However, not all areas of standards development are as well-protected against bias; as has recently come to light, one of the areas least protected by safeguards is standards development organization (SDO) governance and, in particular, SDO intellectual property rights (IPR) policies. The goal of this paper is to examine the role governance rules played in the unbalanced policy changes that were adopted by certain SDOs while rejected by others during the same time period. Adopting good governance practice across all SDOs can avoid any interest groups changing the rules of the game ex-post -- after investment in the development of technologies and standards have been made, thus ensuring better success of the standards themselves.

Keywords: Standards, SDOs, IPR, IEEE, SEP, FRAND

JEL Classification: K, L, O

Suggested Citation

Gupta, Kirti, Changing the Rules of the Game Ex-post: SDO Governance and Why It Matters (July 28, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Kirti Gupta (Contact Author)

Qualcomm, Inc. ( email )

5775 Morehouse Drive
San Diego, CA 92121
United States

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