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Patents and standards

Patents and sandards

Standards, patents, innovation: only for multinationals? Don’t make that mistake. Even better: learn how to use the same rules to strengthen your business in an ever-competitive world that is always on the look out for innovation.

For SMEs, ignoring these questions represents a certain risk of marginalisation or atrophy.

Discover a world that is not as austere as one would initially think, a world that concerns us all: consumers (and therefore your customers!), companies of all sizes and business partners.


At the crossroads of objectives for quality, user and consumer safety, the environment, sustainability and competitiveness, standardisation has become a crucial process.

AFNOR works to provide the first group with the tools that will help reassure the second group. It is therefore natural that it applies rules of conduct to itself in all its relationships whether they be social, economic or environmental.

No industrial sector is exempt from standards:

Do you manufacture toys? It’s difficult to ignore the fact that the CE mark is essential to access the European market, and indicates compliance to benchmark standards.

  • Are you involved in sports? User safety, environmental issues, material toxicity and recycling problems have led to the implementation of standards.
  • Do you work in the food industry? Product preparation, distribution and packaging all require standards.



It all seems very restrictive, especially for an SME. How do you learn about the standards written by “goodness knows who”, “doubtless some out-of-touch technocrats who have never worked in the corporate world”? That’s an extra obstacle for entrepreneurs!

In reality, the entrepreneur is not someone who loses out; he knows how to take advantage of any situation and the “constraint” of standards represents a formidable opportunity.

Firstly, a standard is not an unjustified complication. It represents a “must do better” rigour, which is great for an SME.

This rigour applies to everybody, all the competition and therefore balance is respected. More precisely, this situation benefits those who are more responsive, who know how to adapt their products to comply with new standards, who can even anticipate them and perhaps influence their creation.

How do you respond to new constraints? By innovating… And when you are innovative, you take risks and sometimes success follows. Why would we not discuss the correct use of patents and more broadly of intellectual property?



SMEs are predominant in Europe. They represent 99% of all businesses, around 70% of jobs and 50% of added value. Among these SMEs, a very large proportion[1] is made up of very small businesses with less than 10 employees.

Within this context, the role of SMEs in the economic landscape is crucial and the competitiveness of Europe and France relies on their ability to develop, win markets and create jobs.


Taking into account standards is not only another facet to management. It is also an investment in the future, closely linked to innovation, intellectual property and business intelligence.

By being involved in standardisation committees, an SME can anticipate changes which will become necessary and benefit from the knowledge of others who could feed his own strategic considerations.

One of the greatest successes in standardisation is GSM for mobile phones. Launched in the 1980s and supported by the ETSI committee, the GSM standard helped create a new market that did not exist in Europe (digital telephony), standardising the technology all over Europe and encouraging a sector which for many years experienced two-figure growth.



  • Standardisation upstream of innovation: Technical constraints associated with standard specifications: stimulating innovation
  • Standardisation in association with innovation: Adjusting specifications during the public enquiry stage
  • Standardisation downstream of innovation: Structuring the market for innovation

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