ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Standards Representatives Testify Before Congress on SDO Advancement Act

New York, Apr 09, 2003

A panel of three representatives from the standards and conformity assessment community testified today in a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee Task Force on Antitrust. The speakers delivered remarks during a Task Force hearing on the Standards Developing Organizations Advancement Act of 2003 (H.R. 1086), which aims to provide limited relief to standards development organizations under the antitrust laws.

The panel comprised James Shannon, president and CEO of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA); Earl Everett, Georgia State Department of Labor; and David L. Karmol, vice president of public policy and government affairs at the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The panel appealed to the Task Force, arguing that by acting on this legislation, Congress would take a step forward to offer some litigation protection to the standards developing organizations (SDO) that contribute their knowledge, talents and efforts to the voluntary consensus standards system. They also emphasized the role SDOs play for the government by providing assistance in devising reasonable regulations and procurement standards that fulfill government needs.

The National Cooperative Research and Production Act of 1993 recognized the need to balance the interest in avoiding anti-competitive conduct with the pro-competitive results of cooperative ventures in the areas of research and production. The NCRPA attempts to clarify how antitrust laws apply to joint ventures and encourages joint research and development by providing some protection to participants in such activities. Consortia, for example, can seek to limit their exposure under the antitrust laws to actual, rather than treble, damages by filing a notification with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). H.R. 1086 would create an explicit filing opportunity for SDOs that mirrors the requirements and restrictions currently placed on organizations and companies filing under the existing law, and recognizes the assistance they provide to government agencies in developing standards for regulatory and procurement functions.

The law would also avert unwarranted litigation against SDOs, which are predominantly non-profit organizations with no anti-trust related material interest. According to Shannon, lawsuits brought to bear against SDOs are “unnecessary, costly, and disrupt the process of standards development that serves the public interest.”

Karmol agreed that SDOs – and the experts that populate these groups – serve an important public interest function in devising voluntary consensus standards. Karmol argued that the entire voluntary consensus standards system will be hindered in its ability to continue its work if SDOs are subjected to possible antitrust claims and the legal expenses that such claims entail.

“Along with the responsibilities that have been assumed by the hundreds of organizations that sponsor the development of standards, there is a need for some protection from the high costs of defending against litigation,” said Karmol. “This legislation strikes a good balance, and provides some recognition of the contribution that standards developing organizations make to the American society and economy, and increasingly, as partners with the federal government.”

Following their presentations, the panel members fielded a few questions from the task force, and the Task Force Chairman, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), anticipated that the bill would be favorably received by the full Judiciary Committee and move quickly through Congress. Other members of the Task Force who commented on the legislation spoke in positive terms of the value of standards and standards developing organizations.

See related story: Standards Development Organization Advancement Act of 2003 Introduced in House

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