Study  |  07/29/2021

Truly Standard-Essential Patents? An Automated Semantics-Based Analysis

The identification of standard-essential patents (SEPs) poses a considerable challenge for scholars, practitioners, and policymakers. A new study introduces a semantics-based approach to evaluate the claimed standard essentiality of declared patents.

Automated analysis of text similiarity between patents and standards

SEPs have become a key element of technical coordination in standard-setting organizations. Yet, it remains unclear whether a declared SEP is truly standard-essential. Strategic incentives may influence patent holders in their decision to claim standard essentiality. This may cause legal and contractual frictions during standard-setting and subsequent licensing negotiations. The new study by Lorenz Brachtendorf, Fabian Gaessler and Dietmar Harhoff addresses this issue and introduces an automated semantics-based method to approximate the standard essentiality of patents.

Manual assessments of SEPs typically require substantial technical knowledge and effort. In contrast, the introduced method is simple and inexpensive in use. The scalable, objective, and replicable approach allows for various practical applications. The authors illustrate its usefulness in estimating the share of true SEPs in firm patent portfolios for several mobile telecommunication standards. The results reveal firm-level differences that are statistically significant and economically substantial.

Beyond practical applications, the method may also provide insights of policy relevance. For instance, it can be used to examine whether certain policies achieve their goal of mitigating patent-related frictions in the standard-setting and implementation process.

This study makes an important contribution towards facilitating the ex ante coordination between technology contributors and implementers of technical standards. This is of particular relevance as standardized solutions for the information and communications technologies have become an important aspect of technological innovation and are ubiquitous in many industries of our economy. The study will be presented soon at the USPTO 14th Annual Conference on Innovation Economics and at EPIP 2021.

See the project poster.

See the detailed project description in the Activity Report 2018 - 2020.

Hear the EPO Podcast – Talk Innovation “Research into Patents – Drilling Deeper on the Standard Essentiality of Patents” with Dietmar Harhoff.


Brachtendorf, Lorenz; Gaessler, Fabian; Harhoff, Dietmar (2020). Approximating the Standard Essentiality of Patents – A Semantics-Based Analysis. Final Report for the European Patent Office Academic Research Programme.

Brachtendorf, Lorenz; Gaessler, Fabian; Harhoff, Dietmar (2020). Truly Standard-Essential Patents? A Semantics-Based Analysis. CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP14726 and CRC Discussion Paper No. 265.