As of February 8, 2015, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the world's largest association of technical professionals, has adopted a new policy regarding the availability of injunctive relief for standard essential patents. Many intellectual property attorneys believe the new policy puts patent owners at a disadvantage by decreasing the leverage they have over accused infringers.

The IEEE is one of the leading standards-making organizations in the world. Members range from electrical and electronic engineers to  individuals in the computer science, software engineering, mathematics and physics communities. IEEE has developed standards for over a century in  these fields and others, and while not recognized by any government, it is widely regarded as the industry standard in these communities.

Generally, a standard essential patent is one that any party that wants to comply with the industry standard must infringe order to comply with that industry standard. Thus the IEEE often requires members to disclose and grant licenses to these patents at a “reasonable rate”. Prior to the implementation of the February  8, 2015 policy  changes,  “reasonable rate”was  not  defined  by  the IEEE  standards.   Standard essential   patent   owners   were   able   to   base their valuation  of  their  patent  on  the  percentage  of the entire  product containing the implementation. However,  the  new  policy  defines  the “reasonable rate”   that   patent   owners   may   seek   for  standard essential  patent  licenses  as  the  “smallest saleable compliant  implementation”. By  valuing the patent at the  smallest    saleable compliant  implementation, patent  owners   are   likely   to   find   the   new  policy reduces  the potential value of their  standard essential patent.

The new policy may further reduce the leverage of standard essential patent holders over accused infringers by making injunctive relief  tougher  to obtain. Under the new policy, a standard essential patent holder will likely be precluded from seeking injunctive relief against an accused  infringer  until after a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory royalty is determined and the first level of appeal in the appropriate jurisdiction is exhausted. Thus some patent attorneys believe the new rules will cause more litigation between standard essential patent holders and accused infringers to determine the reasonable rate.

Prior   to   the   new   policy   being   put   into  effect, companies  holding  standard  essential  patents, such as IBM, Nokia, General Electric, Qualcomm, SanDisk and  Panasonic  wrote  to  the  IEEE,  expressing their concern  the   policy  change  will   affect  their  future participation   in   IEEE  standards   because   the  new policy   will   threaten   innovation   by  disincentivizing inventors.  However,  not  everyone  believes  the new policy  will  negatively  affect  innovation.   Companies, including   Apple,  Cisco,   Samsung,  Intel,  Microsoft, and  Verizon,  and  numerous  universities sent a letter to  the   IEEE  supporting  the   patent  policy change, believing  the  policy  change  supports  innovation by encouraging  participation  in  essential  patent pools. The  letter  cites  a  current  standard  essential patent producing  entity  seeking  licensing  fees of thousands of  dollars  per  Wi-Fi  chip  against  hotels  and small retail businesses as an example of a technology hold up that will be addressed by the new policy.  Further, on  February  2, 2015,  the  United  States Department of  Justice  issued  a  Business  Review  Letter  largely supporting IEEE’s  proposed policy changes believing the       new     policy            could   foster   competition     and innovation  by  reducing  any  technology  hold  ups by owners   of   standard   essential   patents   in products implementing the IEEE standards.