Embedded computing: Association moves to reform standards setting


VITA , trade association for the critical embedded computing industry, and its standards organization (VSO) are working, with guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice, to develop new patent policy procedures aimed at improving the standards-setting capabilities within the VSO. VITA requested guidance from the Justice Department's antitrust authority about a proposed patent policy designed to ensure that participants in the VSO standard-setting process disclose patents that are essential to implement a new standard, and declare the most restrictive licensing terms that will be required to license any such patents.

"VITA members will benefit for many years to follow from the changes and improvements being made to the VITA patent policy," said Ray Alderman, executive director of VITA. "This has been an effort for reform that is long overdue in the world of technology-specification development. We look forward to the impact that these changes will have on future standards efforts."

VITA has been exploring more effective patent disclosure procedures for the past several years. These explorations led to an inquiry by VITA to the Department of Justice as to how to proceed in developing better procedures. In the first half of 2006, the association and its board of directors developed new patent disclosure procedures for use by the VSO. The policy was submitted to the Department of Justice on June 8 for review. After several meetings to clarify key points, the Department issued a business review letter on Oct. 30, 2006 saying it would not oppose the proposal. VITA is currently reviewing the proposed changes to the patent policy. The changes are expected to be approved in January.

Click to download background material about this issue, including a copy of the Department of Justice business review letter.

In other VITA news, the association marked the 25th anniversary of the VME technology open standard. VME is an open set of computing standards for modular construction of embedded computers used in applications ranging from commercial products to extremely harsh environments. VME technology is reportedly found in more than 25 million products in high-end industrial controls; communications equipment; instrumentation, military, government, and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) systems. Nearly 60 VME technology specifications have been defined.

Ray Alderman, executive director of VITA, said of the VME standard, "No open architecture in the history of the embedded computer industry has grown and prospered for 25 years except VME. VME continues to flourish worldwide because the specifications continually incorporate the newest technologies, thanks to the collective efforts of the members in the VITA Standards Organization."

VME technology open standard was launched on October 21, 1981 by Motorola, Mostek, Signetics/Philips, and Thomson CSF. The four companies joined together to announce a 16-/32-bit parallel computing bus that was loosely based on the 68000 processor bus. The goal was to have a cooperatively developed, public-domain standard for embedded computing that was backed by an independent organization to provide stewardship and strong promotion.

Founded in 1984, VITA is an incorporated, non-profit organization of suppliers and users having a common market interest in critical embedded systems.

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