Standards are important but poorly understood. Technology standards in particular enable the modern networked global economy to function. Within these technology standards, however, are hundreds or thousands of separate patent-protected technologies.
This paper first defines technology standards and standards-essential patents (SEPs), and the roles they play in determining markets for technology goods and services. It then turns to two case studies. The first looks at the role that SEPs played in early mobile telecommunications standards in Europe and the United States. This case shows the manner in which hard enforcement of intellectual property (IP) rights shaped the markets for these technologies. The second case study examines two standardization efforts in China, highlighting the challenge that licensing fees for SEPs pose to Chinese firms and the efforts made in Chinese standardization to change the norms governing IP in standards. The paper then concludes with implications for the future of SEP norms and public policy-governing standards.