Race to the Market: Can Standards Survive the Acceleration of Innovation and Product Life Cycles?

Plagiarism of emerging market countries has for a considerable time been seen as the main challenge to the western approach of codifying and securing intellectual property rights (IPRs). This neglects the fact that historically all countries which tried to converge to the level of successful economies copied technology. The discussion shadows our view that the more imminent question is whether the steady increase in competition intensity which shortens product life cycles and puts pressure on the invention and innovation system, provides enough time to patent and to standardize. As patent activity not only provides incentives for sinking costs into R&D but is also a first step in the dissemination of technologies, and as standards, especially formal standards, generate level playing fields in broad and reliable markets, this may be critical in the long run. Furthermore, the migration of technologies as a result of a steady reorganization of the spatial division of labor may lead to the adverse situation that countries harboring technologies do not have appropriate institutions for knowledge codification. Exogenous factors that – at least in the short run – cannot be influenced by the standardization bodies are the level of cooperation among interested parties (and mutual trust and institutional linkage), the competitiveness of the technology, the ability to generate externalities by knowledge codification, and the productivity of the technologies. The most important single success factor that standardization bodies can influence is the speed with which a committee proceeds to timely publish formal standards. With reference to a game-theoretical model and based on data for 1997 and 2007 on published formal standards, we show that until now, standardization bodies seem to have successfully coped with the situation.

31. December 2008

Authors Ulrich Blum

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