The TETRA Association was founded to promote and support TETRA technology throughout the world and to encourage an open and competitive market for the supply of TETRA products and services. The technology was developed through the standardisation processes of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). This process is based upon the principle that contributors to ETSI’s drafting process may propose technologies that are protected by Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), such as patents.
ETSI’s processes include an IPR policy (Annex 6 of its Rules of Procedures) that seeks to reduce the risk to ETSI, its members and others, that standards become unusable due to the non availability of licences for essential IPR. It also seeks to set a balance in compensating owners of IPR for the use of their technology in the standard. The policy therefore requires that ETSI members, that are owners of such essential IPR, agree to licence their IPR for use in ETSI standards-based compliant products on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.
Whilst the inclusion of patents in a public standard, and the imposition of related licence fees, may at first sight seem anti-competitive, the reality is that in many cases such fees accelerate standards development and encourage innovative solutions. Companies that invest in the research and development activities that produce these innovative solutions are entitled to be fairly recompensed for their work, which ultimately is for the benefit of the marketplace as a whole.
As Intellectual Property Rights are granted by the government and are enforceable by the owner, any company that is considering manufacturing or supplying TETRA equipment should ensure that they have fully reviewed the patents that may be applicable for their products and have the appropriate licences in place prior to offering for sale or manufacturing TETRA compliant products.
It is also important to understand the following:
1) ETSI maintains a database of all patents that have been declared as essential candidates to the TETRA standard. This database is searchable by the public and is updated periodically. ETSI does not attempt to validate claims of the essentiality of the patents declared. Therefore, manufacturers that wish to enter the TETRA market are encouraged to contact the IPR holders and obtain a listing of TETRA essential patents.
2) Not all declared patents are necessarily essential to the TETRA standard.
3) Patents from companies outside the ETSI process may also be applicable and will not be registered on the ETSI database.
As a result of the above, the TETRA Association strongly recommends that Manufacturers/ Developers conduct their own searches and satisfy themselves of the relevance of any patents and ensure that they are suitably licensed before employing a TETRA essential technology in their products.