Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs)

“The legal rights granted with the aim to protect the creations of the intellect. These rights include Industrial Property Rights (e.g. patents, industrial designs and trademarks) and Copyright (right of the author or creator) and Related Rights (rights of the performers, producers and broadcasting organisations).”

Source: European Commission

Essential IPRs in ETSI

Standards rely on technical contributions from various sources. These contributions may contain patented technologies and other protected rights which are commonly known as Intellectual Property Rights. When it is not possible on technical grounds to make or operate equipment or methods which comply with a standard without infringing an IPR, i.e. without using technologies that are covered by one or more IPR, we describe that IPR as ‘essential’.

The pdfETSI IPR Policy seeks to reduce the risk that our standards-making efforts might be wasted if essential IPRs are unavailable under Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions. At the same time, we recognize that IPR holders should be fairly and adequately rewarded for the use of their IPRs in the implementation of our standards.

The objective of the pdfETSI IPR Policy is to balance the rights and interests of IPR holders and the need for implementers to get access to the technology defined in our standards under FRAND terms and conditions.

We have produced a pdfguide to help our members understand and implement the policy.

ETSI IPR Online Database

We maintain a database which allows public access at any time to information about IPRs which have been notified to us as being essential, or potentially essential, to our standards.

We also publish an extract of this database, usually twice a year, in a Special Report (SR 000 314).

Disclosing essential IPRs to ETSI

During the proposal or development of a standard, our members must inform us if they are aware that they hold any essential IPRs. 

IPRs can be declared in two ways:

We ask any holder of essential IPR declared to us to provide an irrevocable undertaking in writing that it is prepared to grant irrevocable licences on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (“FRAND”) terms and conditions.


Licensing is a permission granted by the IPR owner to another to use the protected rights conferred by an IPR on agreed terms and conditions, while the IPR owner continues to retain ownership of the IPR.

Specific licensing terms and negotiations are commercial issues between the companies and are never addressed within ETSI. However, ex ante disclosure of licensing terms is allowed in ETSI.

Ex ante disclosure of licensing terms is a mechanism by which essential IPR holders disclose their licensing terms (e.g. royalty rates) before the patented technology is selected as part of a standard.

Copyright and trade marks

  • Copyright of our standards belongs to ETSI. We allow the reproduction of parts of our standards, provided a request is made first using the docETSI Copyright questionnaire.
  • We also own certain trade marks.

This is outlined in our pdfIPR Policy and additional information can be found in our pdfguide to IPRs.


Anti-trust legislation exists to prevent unfair business practices. Our position as a recognized European Standards Organization does not exempt us, nor our members, from the application of competition law. We have produced practical pdfguidelines on how to ensure compliance with relevant laws on antitrust.

Further information

To find out more about any aspect of ETSI and IPRs, please contact our Legal team.