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ANSI Holds SDO Legal Issues Forum in Conjunction With Annual Conference in Washington, DC

New York, Oct 16, 2002

More than fifty legal representatives from the standards community gathered this afternoon in Washington, DC at the American National Standards Institute's (ANSI) Third Annual Standards Development Organizations (SDO) Legal Issues Forum, which was held as a special highlight to the Institute's 2002 Annual Conference, "Breaking Down Borders: Business, Standards and Trade." The forum was offered to address a variety of legal issues within the context of standards and the standards development process.

Responding to recent events in the standards community, the SDO Legal Issues Forum featured a distinguished panel of experts who addressed legal issues relating to personal injury liability claims asserted against standards developers, as well as copyright and antitrust law. The Forum was moderated by ANSI vice president and general counsel, Amy A. Marasco, who also provided a brief report on the recent heightened attention being paid to the legal issues surrounding the incorporation of proprietary intellectual property in standards.

Lawrence G. Keane, vice president and general counsel to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, discussed recent developments relating to antitrust issues in the standards-setting context. Keane focused on the complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission against the Rambus, Inc. earlier this year and the recent Department of Justice business review letter discussing the antitrust implications of the decision of a technical group working under the auspices of the American Welding Society to use a certain proprietary technology as the basis for its proposed standard.

Maureen Brodoff, vice president and general counsel to the National Fire Protection Association, discussed the issues of copyright law and whether a standards developer loses the ability to enforce its copyright in its standards when they are adopted or referred to by a government entity and become "the law". In particular, Ms. Brodoff focused on the details of the recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Southern Building Code Congress, Inc. v. Veeck, which may ultimately be reviewed by the United States Supreme Court.

Regarding the subject of liability claims against standard developers, Clark Silcox, counsel to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, offered an update on the increasing assertion of negligence/tort claims against standards developers in the wake of the Washington State Court of Appeals decision involving the National Spa and Pool Institute. While claims are asserted against standards developers from time to time on the grounds that the developer disseminated an allegedly unsafe standard, historically the vast majority of courts have dismissed these types of claims on the ground that the standards developer does not owe a "duty" to a person injured by a product or set of circumstances to which the developer's standard applies.

"Legal issues arise throughout the voluntary standards development process that can be problematic and a significant challenge to standards developing organizations," states Marasco. "The SDO Legal Issues Forum has provided a means to track and analyze the changing legal landscape in relation to standards developers, and an opportunity to discuss these issues and react as a community of shared interests."

ANSI is pleased to offer the SDO Legal Issues Forum as a service to its members and the greater standards community, and the opportunity to gain greater insight into the legal implications of standards development.

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