top of page
  • Marta Beckwith

Welcome To My Blog!

Updated: Jul 6, 2023


I recently moved with my husband and youngest child to New Zealand (my husband is a Kiwi). My middle child was starting university, my oldest was already there and my youngest was about to start high school. We decided it was an opportune time to see what it is like living somewhere other than California (where I’ve lived pretty much all my life). We shipped a container full of stuff, rented out our house and flew the 14-ish hours from California down to the Southern Hemisphere.


Here’s what we brought with us from the United States: furniture, pots, pans, dishes, books, clothes, laptops, phones and the cat. Here’s what we didn’t bring: any of my husband’s power tools (of which he has an inordinate amount because for many years he did construction and woodworking as a profession), our television, our kitchen appliances. Why didn’t we bring those things? Standardization (or lack thereof). Not only are New Zealand wall plugs different in form to United States ones, New Zealand uses a different voltage in its electrical system (240V in NZ vs 120V in the US). So not only do you need a wall plug adapter, you also need a converter to safely run a US standard appliance in a NZ standard house. And adapters do not work very well for things that have heavy power draw like large power tools. So, in the end we left a lot of things behind.


Long ago, when individual countries decided to electrify, many of them went their own way. At the time, it must have seemed reasonable not to have a global standard for electrical outlets. There were no easily transportable electrical appliances, no laptops, no phone chargers and not much global shipping of stuff that needs to be plugged into the wall. Neighboring countries often implicitly or explicitly co-standardized their plugs and currents (for example, the US and Canada and mostly Mexico) but otherwise, there did not seem to be a need for a universal standard. It is pretty much too late now to standardize every country’s electrical outlets because it would require re-doing the plugs (and sometimes the electrical systems) in just about everyone’s house and every commercial building most places in the world). So, although over the years globally standardized plugs have been proposed, standardization of electrical outlets has not happened.


We did not leave behind our laptops or phones, however. Laptops were invented well into the Twentieth Century and really only became ubiquitous in this century (as hard as it is these days to remember a time before laptops, I didn’t use a laptop until the early 2000s). Although those efforts didn’t quite achieve a universal power cord for laptops or phones, almost all laptop cords have built in power converters and they are made in two pieces. And phone chargers these days have a wall socket piece (a “brick”) and a cord piece that are separate from each other. So, to charge our U.S. laptops here in New Zealand, we only needed to replace the lower part of the power cord with one that uses a New Zealand outlet configuration and to charge our phones, we only needed to replace the bricks.


Also, during the 1990s and early 2000s, a number of globalized telecommunications and networking standards were adopted. The first Wi-Fi standards were developed in the late 1990s through the efforts of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 802.11 Working Group. Because of those efforts and 802.11’s subsequent standardization, Wi-Fi is Wi-Fi is Wi-Fi just about everywhere in the world. This means that my U.S. laptop can speak wirelessly to my New Zealand access point. And because of the efforts of the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force, another standard development / standard setting body), just about every laptop, computer, phone and a multitude of other consumer devices “speak” internet protocol (which we all know simply as “IP”) which allows them to communicate with each other across the Internet and over other networks in most countries in the world.


Cellular standards took a bit longer to become globalized. Back in the 2G days, there were multiple different technologies used even within the United States so a phone suitable for one carrier’s system would not necessarily be usable on another carrier’s system (no roaming) and you could not use a United States phone in Europe (or New Zealand). But these days, 4G/LTE technology(1) is ubiquitous so my U.S. cell phone works perfectly well here in New Zealand. And my husband and daughter only had to buy new SIM cards and plop them into their U.S. purchased cell phones for those phones to work here in New Zealand, with New Zealand phone numbers, as if they had been purchased here in New Zealand (albeit with the requirement of a NZ calling plan).


It is clear from my own experiences that standardization, when done well, is a really useful and important tool. It allows consumers to use devices throughout a country and even between countries (it ensures “interoperability”). It means consumers need to buy fewer devices because of that interoperability. It allows people to replace their devices with devices made by any number of companies that have implemented the same standard into their products. It allows users in one area or country to communicate with people in vastly different areas and countries. Successful standardization reduces costs to consumers and costs to companies to manufacture goods. It allows smaller businesses and businesses without the technical expertise to independently develop their own technology to implement standardized technology into their products – witness the IoT (Internet of Things) explosion.


If you ask the following question in a search engine - “What is the purpose of standards”- you get the following types of answers:


“The point of a standard is to provide a reliable basis for people to share the same expectations about a product or service. This helps to: facilitate trade, provide a framework for achieving economies, efficiencies and interoperability.” Information about standards - what is a standard? | BSI (bsigroup.com)


“An effective standards and conformance system makes it easier for consumers and businesses to make informed decisions. The Government, consumers and the community rely on standards and conformance to protect public health, safety and the environment.” Standards and conformance | Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (mbie.govt.nz)


Standards “promote inter-operability, the safety of EU citizens and protection of the environment.” EUR-Lex - 52022DC0031 - EN - EUR-Lex (europa.eu)


Standards “enable technology that is safe, universal, and interoperable. Standards define the requirements that make it possible for mobile phones sold in different countries to communicate across the world, for bank cards issued in one country to be recognized at ATMs in another, and for cars to run on fuel purchased from any gas station. Standards also help manage risk, security, safety, privacy, and quality in the development of new innovations. In short, good standards are good for business, good for consumers, and good for society.” US-Gov-National-Standards-Strategy-2023.pdf (whitehouse.gov)


The debate around FRAND licensing seems to have lost track of these fundamental principles. The purpose of good standards and standardization is not to enhance the returns of SEP developers, SEP holders or even SEP implementers, but rather to enable consumers to access safe, beneficial and interoperable products and technology.


So, welcome to my blog about standards, standardization and standard essential patents. I intend to cover not only the usual things we lawyers talk about when discussing standards (the latest court rulings, should injunctions be issued for SEPs, etc.) but also to focus on the fundamental purposes and goals of standardization and how the SEP/FRAND licensing framework can be used to support, or undermine, those goals.


(1) Technically my phone is a 5G phone but very little of the infrastructure here in New Zealand (or in many other countries) has been upgraded to 5G and 4G/LTE remains the predominant cellular standard.



bottom of page