The FUD machine from the anti-Open XML camp has been running on the high-octane fuel of the Software Freedom Law Center critique of the Microsoft OSP. While there is absolutely a debate to be had about the role that covenants not to sue or open specification promises play in the broader world of standardization – they are irrelevant in the conversation about the approval of an international specification under the ISO/IEC JTC 1 directives.
Collectively, it is everyone’s best interest to have the JTC 1 rules applied in a dispassionate and equal manner for all specifications under consideration for international standardization. The idea that Open XML should be held to a different standard than any other specification is damaging to all JTC 1 business.
Gray Knowlton put out a blog posting where he addresses many of the issues raised in about the OSP – and this is a topic I have addressed in previous blog postings as well. I certainly will write on the topic again – but there is really one one thing to keep in mind if you are part of a national standards body considering the fracas being raise by the anti-Open XML community.
Open XML (DIS 29500) exceeds any ISO/IEC requirement for intellectual property rights for ANY JTC 1 specification. The discussion of covenants not to sue and open specification promises have no standing in relation to the ISO approval or disapproval of DIS 29500. The only measure for consideration within the context of the process is the IPR policy of ISO/IEC. Period. Full stop. End. Arête. Halt. Alles klar?
For the sake of clarity, the reason I say that Microsoft “exceeded” the ISO/IEC JTC 1 IPR policy is that there was a clear intent from Microsoft to promote the adoption of Open XML broadly and mechanism to support that goal was the use of the CNS and OSP options. JTC 1 asks for RAND either with or without royalties. Ecma 376 complies with that requirement. For the broader community interested in developing Open XML implementations, they want to know that they can do so without concern of Microsoft pursuing them for patent infringement. Any implementer must consider what licenses they are using for their implementation and how that interacts with the terms covering the specification. This is true for all specifications being implemented by someone.
So to recap – if you are just generally wondering about DIS 29500 – the ISO/IEC IPR requirement for a minimum set of IP terms being Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (and specifically in this case without royalties) – that has been met. There is NO OTHER CHOICE for any contributor to the ISO/IEC process – one of the boxes on the form must be checked. ODF is under THE EXACT SAME REQUIREMENTS. What happens beyond that in terms of OSP, CNS, etc. is not relevant to the approval of an ISO/IEC specification because national bodies should be under the the guidance of a consistent set of rules when they consider their position on any specification going through the process.