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Understanding the 1EdTech Intellectual Property Rights Policy

As a 1EdTech Consortium Contributing Member, your organization’s participation in 1EdTech is governed, in part, by the 1EdTech Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) agreement

The 1EdTech IPR policy has played an important role in helping to understand the impact of patents in the LMS and assessment domains over the last decade. In both cases, 1EdTech had a very positive impact on helping get to the facts in a collaborative setting, which led to positive outcomes in both situations. 

Recently there has been discussion and concerns regarding patents in the field of digital micro-credentials, such as Open Badges. 1EdTech is monitoring and evaluating this situation closely. In light of these developments, I thought it would be a good time to provide an overview of what role 1EdTech plays when it comes to Intellectual Property.

The subject of intellectual property and its intersection with open standards development has been the subject of much legal work over the last 15 years, following some well-publicized alleged abuses in the semiconductor industry. The 1EdTech policy is based on the best practices of IPR management in a consortium setting. Although developed in 2005, to date there have been no significant improvements in these best practices.

Here is what you need to know as a 1EdTech member about the intersection of 1EdTech and IPR:

  1. The primary purpose of the 1EdTech IPR policy is to provide a best practice protection from intellectual property that might thwart the adoption of a 1EdTech open standard. This is achieved by the 1EdTech member community working together to uncover the existence of IP that potentially encumbers the implementation of any 1EdTech standard and, as a community, takes the appropriate action when such IP is uncovered—such as choosing a different approach to the open standard that will not be encumbered by IP.
  2. It is the normal course of business in high tech for innovative organizations to create and protect IP. Failure to protect IP will make it very difficult for an organization to succeed with its product or service in a highly competitive world. The 1EdTech IPR policy provides options for owners of IP to continue to protect their IP while contributing it for the purposes of 1EdTech. This usually takes the form of a free and non-discriminatory license for the purposes of implementing a relevant standard. 1EdTech’s priority, once potentially relevant IP has been discovered, is to obtain this protection for any and all implementers of a 1EdTech standard.
  3. As of today, there is, unfortunately, no perfect protection from IP in any market or field. There is no guarantee that all relevant IP will be uncovered, and it is important to understand that IP legal disputes are the province of individual competitors that can be brought for a large number of reasons (other than the implementation of a 1EdTech standard). The 1EdTech IPR Policy, as with IPR policies of other highly regarded and large-scale standards organizations, is a “best attempt” at achieving protection specifically as it relates to the implementation of 1EdTech standards.
  4. 1EdTech is a neutral body when it comes to IP disputes. IP disputes are matters for courts of law. The 1EdTech community often plays the very important role of helping to uncover the facts, such as prior art, to help determine the validity of a patent, sometimes leveraging 1EdTech’s very long and well-documented history. But, 1EdTech will generally not be a party to a patent dispute other than helping to uncover facts, as 1EdTech must be a neutral body among the members (who are often competitors).
  5. 1EdTech expects our members to take the IPR policy seriously. Failure to come forward with relevant IP that is clearly known to a 1EdTech member is a serious situation that 1EdTech will investigate and act upon. 1EdTech can take action toward members in accordance with 1EdTech policies and procedures, including the IPR policy itself.

If all this sounds very imperfect and you’re wondering, “Can’t 1EdTech do more?” please consider the following:

  1. Protection of legitimate IP is a good thing. Such protection is a cornerstone of an economic system that rewards legitimate innovation. Thus, taking a position that “there should be no IP” is not only unrealistic, but it is also a flawed approach to encouraging innovation.
  2. Communities that do not explicitly cover IP contribution rules or seek to “whitewash” IP issues by asking for blanket contributions of any/all IP do not protect—just the opposite. In the former case, there is maximum opportunity for a single or small number of parties to “game the system” through the private accumulation of IP. In the latter case, participants with legitimate IP are unlikely to contribute, which lessens the overall contribution and provides the worst-case scenario of competitive IP of which no one is aware/tracking.
  3. While the duties of 1EdTech in regard to IP are limited, the collaborative nature of 1EdTech across the leaders in the educational technology space provides an incentive for all parties to “do the right thing” in terms of not thwarting the innovation that we all seek to accelerate. In other words, your organization’s participation in this process is essential to help create a vibrant educational technology ecosystem! Participation across our community has already demonstrated a very positive impact on IP issues in the edtech sector.

Please contact me at if you would like to share any thoughts or concerns on IP generally or specifically. We will do our best to answer questions that may be of interest to all (and post them below for reference).

Many thanks,



Rob Abel, Ed.D.

Chief Executive Officer

1EdTech Consortium

Where can I find the 1EdTech IPR policy?

You can view the IP Statement and download a copy of the 1EdTech Consortium Intellectual Property Rights Policy from the 1EdTech website.

Published on 2017-11-28

PUBLISHED ON 2017-11-28

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Rob Abel, Ed.D.
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