In the discussion about appropriate eligibility criteria under a modernized EU standardization policy, it should be considered to what extent the requirements that in many cases already apply under competition law would safeguard the public policy interests at stake.
EU competition policy supports the notion that industry standardization should be open, transparent and non-discriminatory. The Commission’s new draft guidelines on horizontal cooperation outlines requirements (including participation, transparent procedures and IPR-regimes with clear disclosure and licensing rules) under which cooperation on standards generally would not result in restrictions of competition (and thus would not run afoul of the antitrust rules). Such a “safe-harbor” approach is particularly appropriate for formal SSOs and other standards bodies with significant industry participation, since they affect the conditions for market access and competition both at the technology level and for the standardized products.
Similarly, where governments act as regulators or procurers, their involvement may increase the market ubiquity of a given standard. Relying on open and transparent standards in such situations can ensure a level playing field and full implementation of the standard, and avoid vendor lock-in.
However, too far-reaching regulatory requirements may stifle development. The success and increased importance of various fora and consortia show that different governance and organization models may be appropriate and efficient. Moreover, important “non-formal” SSOs (e.g. in the ICT-sector) display a high degree of openness and transparency, and an ability to protect themselves from vested interests, despite “non-conventional” structures.