Please note: this question has to do with the technical compliance aspects of the consumer electronics indsutry, and as such, I believe is within scope for this site. This question is about compliance, and Compliance is absolutely a qualitative aspect of engineering/design.
An engineer has a great idea for some electronics gadget, say, a "Widget 5000" (W5K). It doesn't really matter what a W5K is or what it does (!).
This engineer designs a prototype for a W5K and forms a startup. He/she obtains funding for the startup and now needs to make sure that the production version of W5K is compliant with all necessary standards so that it is safe for real-world, production usage (the prototype/proof-of-concept is anything but production-grade).
Perhaps W5K is not only an electronics device, but perhaps it uses radio communication. In this case I'm sure the FAA wants to make sure it won't interefere with air conrol traffic, etc. Perhaps the W5K is also used as a medical device, and so it must conform to certain medical technology standard, such as IEC 6061 and/or others.
Companies like UL offer a vast range of services for testing, verifying, validating and certifying electronics.
What I'm hung up on is: how does our engineer know exactly which of these services he/she must utilize in order to safely sell the W5K on retailer shelves?
I would imagine that all sorts of entities want to have a say in the matter:
- Retailers/Marketplaces - I would imagine many Retailers won't carry your product unless it is certified by one of the big name companies (again, like UL, etc.)
- Insurance Carriers - I would imagine carriers won't even sell our engineer various policies (General Liability, Professional Liability, etc.) unless the W5K meets similar standards
- Court Systems - If our engineer's startup gets sued because one W5K caught a customer's house on fire, I'm sure court systems look to see if W5K met certain standards, and take that into heavy consideration when making a ruling
- Federal Agencies - I'm sure various agencies (FAA, etc.) want to make sure the W5K is safe and compliant for various obvious reasons
- Professional Associations - Perhaps there are Professional Associations or Consumer Electronics Associations that simply won't have anything to do with our engineer's startup if the W5K doesn't meet certain compliances
- ...and I'm sure I'm missing many more!
After reviewing the play, I think this type of decision comes down to protecting yourself against 3 scenarios:
- The startup is sued (by anyone for any reason) and you want to make sure your counsel is armed with the right supporting documentation to prove you did everything in your power to guarantee safety, so as to minimize the chance you lose the suit. Such an effort is made easier if the product's certification(s) cover the nature of the suit; and
- The startup is sued (by anyone for any reason) and you lose. In this case you will file a claim with your carrier to pay the amount of the suit, and you need to make sure the carrier can't deny the claim because you didn't have the correct certifications; and
- A state and/or federal agency launches an investigation into your product, finds out that you are not legally compliant with a standard that you are required to be compliant with, and fines/sues you.
I know there's no silver/magic bullet here. But what I'm asking is: what is the process by which our engineer can go about determining what standards he/she must make the W5K comply with? I'm sure there are industry-wide best practices for making this type of decision...