PPR Launches Website on Codes and Standards

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The Penn Program on Regulation launches a new curricular resource site that showcases the importance of voluntary codes and standards.

The Penn Program on Regulation (PPR) is pleased to announce the launch of our voluntary codes and standards resource website: Codes-and-Standards.org.

Voluntary codes and standards may be the most important part of regulatory governance that many people have never heard of. But voluntary codes and standards touch our lives every day.

Established by non-governmental standard-setting organizations, voluntary codes and standards instruct businesses on how to design their products and carry out their services. They apply to the construction of new buildings, the safety of food processing, and the design of computer equipment, among many other products and services.

Voluntary codes and standards find their way into many contracts, and sometimes they become the basis for contractual disputes. They can establish the standard of care in products liability lawsuits—and sometimes they can create a defense against these suits as well. They can also find themselves at the heart of intellectual property transactions and disputes, such as those involving the terms for licensing patents.

Voluntary codes and standards can also become part of binding public law when legislatures and regulatory agencies incorporate them by reference. Tens of thousands of so-called voluntary codes and standards have become mandatory in the United States just through their incorporation into federal regulations.

Despite the prevalence of voluntary codes and standards in today’s business environment, and despite their key implications for practicing lawyers and policy decision-makers, few students in law, public policy, and political science programs learn about voluntary codes and standards. Until now, few teaching materials about voluntary codes and standards have been available for use in professional and graduate school education.

With support from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), PPR has developed course modules and multi-media case studies which use examples from the world of voluntary codes and standards to teach broader legal concepts.

The case studies feature real-life narratives and video interviews with key participants and experts designed to engage students and stimulate lively discussion. The materials are intended to be integrated into existing law school and graduate-level courses with the aid of teaching materials that can be used by instructors without any prior background in working with voluntary codes and standards.

The Codes-and-Standards.org website features modules written by legal scholars on key topics: standard essential patents; incorporation by reference; risk regulation; and federal preemption. An additional module helps instructors seeking to offer a general introduction to voluntary codes and standards. Contributors include Emily Bremer (Notre Dame), Cynthia Laury Dahl (Penn), Gabriel Scheffler (Miami), and Shana Starobin (Bowdoin). Cary Coglianese (Penn) also contributed as well as led the entire project.

To learn more, visit our Voluntary Codes and Standards website. Also, read our special series of essays about voluntary codes and standards in The Regulatory Review.

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