An open standard is a standard that is publicly available and has
various rights to use associated with it, and may also have various
properties of how it was designed (e.g. open process). There is no
single definition and interpretations vary with usage.
The terms open and standard have a wide range of meanings associated
with their usage. There are a number of definitions of open standards
which emphasize different aspects of openness, including the openness
of the resulting specification, the openness of the drafting process,
and the ownership of rights in the standard. The term "standard" is
sometimes restricted to technologies approved by formalized committees
that are open to participation by all interested parties and operate
on a consensus basis.
The definitions of the term open standard used by academics, the
1 Specific definitions of an open standard
1.1 Joint IEEE, ISOC, W3C,
2 Comparison of definitions 3 Examples of open standards
4 Examples of associations 5 Patents 6 Quotes 7 See also 8 References 9 Further reading 10 External links
Specific definitions of an open standard
Joint IEEE, ISOC, W3C,
are chosen and defined based on technical merit, as judged by the contributed expertise of each participant; provide global interoperability, scalability, stability, and resiliency; enable global competition; serve as building blocks for further innovation; and contribute to the creation of global communities, benefiting humanity.
4. Availability Standards specifications are made accessible to all for implementation and deployment. Affirming standards organizations have defined procedures to develop specifications that can be implemented under fair terms. Given market diversity, fair terms may vary from royalty-free to fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms (FRAND). 5. Voluntary Adoption Standards are voluntarily adopted and success is determined by the market.  ITU-T definition The ITU-T is a standards development organization (SDO) that is one of the three sectors of the International Telecommunications Union (a specialized agency of the United Nations). The ITU-T has a Telecommunication Standardization Bureau director's Ad Hoc group on IPR that produced the following definition in March 2005, which the ITU-T as a whole has endorsed for its purposes since November 2005:
The ITU-T has a long history of open standards development. However, recently some different external sources have attempted to define the term "Open Standard" in a variety of different ways. In order to avoid confusion, the ITU-T uses for its purpose the term "Open Standards" per the following definition: "Open Standards" are standards made available to the general public and are developed (or approved) and maintained via a collaborative and consensus driven process. "Open Standards" facilitate interoperability and data exchange among different products or services and are intended for widespread adoption. Other elements of "Open Standards" include, but are not limited to:
Collaborative process – voluntary and market driven development (or approval) following a transparent consensus driven process that is reasonably open to all interested parties. Reasonably balanced – ensures that the process is not dominated by any one interest group. Due process - includes consideration of and response to comments by interested parties. Intellectual property rights (IPRs) – IPRs essential to implement the standard to be licensed to all applicants on a worldwide, non-discriminatory basis, either (1) for free and under other reasonable terms and conditions or (2) on reasonable terms and conditions (which may include monetary compensation). Negotiations are left to the parties concerned and are performed outside the SDO. Quality and level of detail – sufficient to permit the development of a variety of competing implementations of interoperable products or services. Standardized interfaces are not hidden, or controlled other than by the SDO promulgating the standard. Publicly available – easily available for implementation and use, at a reasonable price. Publication of the text of a standard by others is permitted only with the prior approval of the SDO. On-going support – maintained and supported over a long period of time.
The ITU-T, ITU-R, ISO, and IEC have harmonized on a common patent
policy  under the banner of the WSC. However, the
should not necessarily be considered also applicable in ITU-R, ISO and
IEC contexts, since the Common
To reach interoperability in the context of pan-European eGovernment services, guidance needs to focus on open standards.
The word "open" is here meant in the sense of fulfilling the following requirements:
The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organization, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties (consensus or majority decision etc.). The standard has been published and the standard specification document is available either freely or at a nominal charge. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute and use it for no fee or at a nominal fee. The intellectual property - i.e. patents possibly present - of (parts of) the standard is made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis. There are no constraints on the re-use of the standard
Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium
Specifications for hardware and/or software that are publicly available implying that multiple vendors can compete directly based on the features and performance of their products. It also implies that the existing open system can be removed and replaced with that of another vendor with minimal effort and without major interruption.
Danish government definition The Danish government has attempted to make a definition of open standards, which also is used in pan-European software development projects. It states:
An open standard is accessible to everyone free of charge (i.e. there is no discrimination between users, and no payment or other considerations are required as a condition of use of the standard) An open standard of necessity remains accessible and free of charge (i.e. owners renounce their options, if indeed such exist, to limit access to the standard at a later date, for example, by committing themselves to openness during the remainder of a possible patent's life) An open standard is accessible free of charge and documented in all its details (i.e. all aspects of the standard are transparent and documented, and both access to and use of the documentation is free)
French law definition The French Parliament approved a definition of "open standard" in its "Law for Confidence in the Digital Economy." The definition is:
By open standard is understood any communication, interconnection or interchange protocol, and any interoperable data format whose specifications are public and without any restriction in their access or implementation.
Indian Government Definition A clear Royalty Free stance and far reaching requirements case is the one for India's Government 
4.1 Mandatory Characteristics An Identified Standard will qualify as an “Open Standard”, if it meets the following criteria:
4.1.1 Specification document of the Identified Standard shall be
available with or without a nominal fee.
Italian Law definition Italy has a general rule for the entire public sector dealing with Open Standards, although concentrating on data formats, in Art. 68 of the Code of the Digital Administration (Codice dell'Amministrazione Digitale)
[applications must] allow representation of data under different formats, at least one being an open data format. [...]
[it is defined] an open data format, a data format which is made public, is thoroughly documented and neutral with regard to the technological tools needed to peruse the same data.
Spanish law definition A Law passed by the Spanish Parliament  requires that all electronic services provided by the Spanish public administration must be based on open standards. It defines an open standard as royalty free, according to the following definition:
An open standard fulfills the following conditions:
it is public, and its use is available on a free [gratis] basis, or at a cost that does not imply a difficulty for the user. its use is not subject to the payment of any intellectual [copyright] or industrial [patents and trademarks] property right.
Venezuelan law definition The Venezuelan Government approved a "free software and open standards law." The decree includes the requirement that the Venezuelan public sector must use free software based on open standards, and includes a definition of open standard:
Article 2: for the purposes of this Decree, it shall be understood as
k) Open standards: technical specifications, published and controlled by an organization in charge of their development, that have been accepted by the industry, available to everybody for their implementation in free software or other [type of software], promoting competitivity, interoperability and flexibility.
South African Government definition
The South African Government approved a definition in the "Minimum
it should be maintained by a non-commercial organization participation in the ongoing development work is based on decision making processes that are open to all interested parties. open access: all may access committee documents, drafts and completed standards free of cost or for a negligible fee. It must be possible for everyone to copy, distribute and use the standard free of cost. The intellectual rights required to implement the standard (e.g.essential patent claims) are irrevocably available, without any royalties attached. There are no reservations regarding reuse of the standard. There are multiple implementations of the standard.
New Zealand official interoperability framework definition
While a universally agreed definition of "open standards" is unlikely to be resolved in the near future, the e-GIF accepts that a definition of “open standards” needs to recognise a continuum that ranges from closed to open, and encompasses varying degrees of "openness." To guide readers in this respect, the e-GIF endorses "open standards" that exhibit the following properties:
Be accessible to everyone free of charge: no discrimination between users, and no payment or other considerations should be required as a condition to use the standard. Remain accessible to everyone free of charge: owners should renounce their options, if any, to limit access to the standard at a later date. Be documented in all its details: all aspects of the standard should be transparent and documented, and both access to and use of the documentation should be free.
The e-GIF performs the same function in e-government as the Road Code does on the highways. Driving would be excessively costly, inefficient, and ineffective if road rules had to be agreed each time one vehicle encountered another.
Bruce Perens' definition One of the most popular definitions of the term "open standard," as measured by Google ranking, is the one developed by Bruce Perens. His definition lists a set of principles that he believes must be met by an open standard:
Microsoft's definition Vijay Kapoor, national technology officer, Microsoft, defines what open standards are as follows:
Let's look at what an open standard means: 'open' refers to it being royalty-free, while 'standard' means a technology approved by formalized committees that are open to participation by all interested parties and operate on a consensus basis. An open standard is publicly available, and developed, approved and maintained via a collaborative and consensus driven process.
Overall, Microsoft's relationship to open standards is, at best,
No Intentional Secrets: The standard MUST NOT withhold any detail necessary for interoperable implementation. As flaws are inevitable, the standard MUST define a process for fixing flaws identified during implementation and interoperability testing and to incorporate said changes into a revised version or superseding version of the standard to be released under terms that do not violate the OSR. Availability: The standard MUST be freely and publicly available (e.g., from a stable web site) under royalty-free terms at reasonable and non-discriminatory cost. Patents: All patents essential to implementation of the standard MUST:
be licensed under royalty-free terms for unrestricted use, or be covered by a promise of non-assertion when practiced by open source software
No Agreements: There MUST NOT be any requirement for execution of a license agreement, NDA, grant, click-through, or any other form of paperwork to deploy conforming implementations of the standard. No OSR-Incompatible Dependencies: Implementation of the standard MUST NOT require any other technology that fails to meet the criteria of this Requirement.
Ken Krechmer's definition Ken Krechmer identifies ten "rights":
Open Meeting Consensus Due Process Open IPR One World Open Change Open Documents Open Interface Open Use On-going Support
World Wide Web Consortium's definition
As an important provider of Web technology ICT Standards, notably XML,
http, HTML, CSS and WAI, the
World Wide Web Consortium
transparency (due process is public, and all technical discussions,
meeting minutes, are archived and referencable in decision making)
relevance (new standardization is started upon due analysis of the
market needs, including requirements phase, e.g. accessibility,
openness (anybody can participate, and everybody does: industry,
individual, public, government bodies, academia, on a worldwide scale)
impartiality and consensus (guaranteed fairness by the process and the
neutral hosting of the
In August 2012, the
"The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organization, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties. The standard has been published and the standard specification document is available freely. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute, and use it freely. The patents possibly present on (parts of) the standard are made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis. There are no constraints on the re-use of the standard.
A key defining property is that an open standard is immune to vendor capture at all stages in its life-cycle. Immunity from vendor capture makes it possible to improve upon, trust, and extend an open standard over time."
This definition is based on the EU's EIF v1 definition of "open
standard," but with changes to address what it terms as "vendor
capture." They believe that "Many groups and individuals have provided
definitions for 'open standard' that reflect their economic interests
in the standards process. We see that the fundamental conflict is
between vendors who seek to capture markets and raise costs, and the
market at large, which seeks freedom and lower costs... Vendors work
hard to turn open standards into franchise standards. They work to
change the statutory language so they can cloak franchise standards in
the sheep's clothing of 'open standard.' A robust definition of "free
and open standard" must thus take into account the direct economic
conflict between vendors and the market at large."
Free Software Foundation
Subject to full public assessment and use without constraints in a manner equally available to all parties; Without any components or extensions that have dependencies on formats or protocols that do not meet the definition of an Open Standard themselves; Free from legal or technical clauses that limit its utilisation by any party or in any business model; Managed and further developed independently of any single vendor in a process open to the equal participation of competitors and third parties; Available in multiple complete implementations by competing vendors, or as a complete implementation equally available to all parties.
The Foundation for a Free
A specification that is public, the standard is inclusive and it has been developed and is maintained in an open standardization process, everybody can implement it without any restriction, neither payment, to license the IPR (granted to everybody for free and without any condition). This is the minimum license terms asked by standardization bodies as W3C. Of course, all the other bodies accept open standards. But specification itself could cost a fair amount of money (ie. 100-400Eur per copy as in ISO because copyright and publication of the document itself).
UK government definition
The UK government's definition of open standards applies to software
interoperability, data and document formats. The criteria for open
standards are published in the “
Collaboration - the standard is maintained through a collaborative decision-making process that is consensus based and independent of any individual supplier. Involvement in the development and maintenance of the standard is accessible to all interested parties. Transparency - the decision-making process is transparent, and a publicly accessible review by subject matter experts is part of the process. Due process - the standard is adopted by a specification or standardisation organisation, or a forum or consortium with a feedback and ratification process to ensure quality. Fair access - the standard is published, thoroughly documented and publicly available at zero or low cost. Zero cost is preferred but this should be considered on a case by case basis as part of the selection process. Cost should not be prohibitive or likely to cause a barrier to a level playing field. Market support - other than in the context of creating innovative solutions, the standard is mature, supported by the market and demonstrates platform, application and vendor independence. Rights - rights essential to implementation of the standard, and for interfacing with other implementations which have adopted that same standard, are licensed on a royalty free basis that is compatible with both open source and proprietary licensed solutions. These rights should be irrevocable unless there is a breach of licence conditions.
Comparison of definitions
Publisher Time of publication Availability Usage rights Process Completeness
The specification must be redistributable free of charge The specification must be redistributable under FRAND terms Essential patents must be made irrevocably available royalty free Essential patents must be licensable under FRAND terms Further development must be open for anyone to participate in Further development must be open for anyone to view Technologically mature standards must be implemented by multiple vendors or an open reference implementation
Joint IEEE, ISOC, W3C, IETF, IAB 2012-08-12 No No No Red herring No No No
ITU-T 2005-03 No No No Yes No No No
Pan-European eGovernment 2004 No Yes Yes N/A Yes N/A No
Danish government 2004 No No Unclear N/A No No No
French law 2004 Implied N/A Implied N/A No No No
Indian government 2014 No No Yes N/A No No No
Italian law 2005-03-07 No No No No No No No
Spanish law 2007-06-22 No No Yes N/A No No No
Venezuelan law 2004-12-23 No No Implied N/A No No No
South African government 2007 Yes N/A Yes N/A Yes N/A Yes
New Zealand e-GIF 2007-06-22 No No Unclear N/A No No No
Bruce Perens ? No No Yes N/A No No No
Microsoft ? No No Yes N/A Yes N/A No
Open Source Initiative ? Yes N/A Partial No Yes N/A No
W3C 2005-09 No No Yes N/A Yes N/A No
DIGISTAN ? Yes N/A Yes N/A Yes N/A No
FSFE 2001 No No Implied N/A Yes N/A Yes
FFII ? No No Yes N/A No No No
UK government 2012 No No Yes N/A Yes N/A Yes
Examples of open standards Note that because the various definitions of "open standard" differ in their requirements, the standards listed below may not be open by every definition. System
World Wide Web architecture specified by W3C
Hardware See also: Open-source hardware
Industry Standard Architecture
Computer Graphics Metafile (CGM) (file format for 2D vector graphics,
raster graphics, and text defined by ISO/IEC 8632)
Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) (a format and
architecture to create and maintain technical documentation define by
Hypertext Markup Language
Data2Dome a standard for Dome Content Distribution.
Attention Profiling Markup Language (APML)
Apdex (Application Performance Index) (specifies a uniform way to
analyze and report on the degree to which the measured performance of
software applications meets user expectations
Application Response Measurement (ARM) (defines an API for C and Java
programming language to measure application transaction response
times, adopted by The Open Group)
Examples of associations
In 2002 and 2003 the controversy about using reasonable and
non-discriminatory (RAND) licensing for the use of patented technology
in web standards increased. Bruce Perens, important associations as
FSF or FFII and others have argued that the use of patents restricts
who can implement a standard to those able or willing to pay for the
use of the patented technology. The requirement to pay some small
amount per user, is often an insurmountable problem for free/open
source software implementations which can be redistributed by anyone.
Royalty free (RF) licensing is generally the only possible license for
free/open source software implementations. Version 3 of the GNU
General Public License includes a section that enjoins anyone who
distributes a program released under the GPL from enforcing patents on
subsequent users of the software or derivative works.
One result of this controversy was that many governments (including
the Danish, French and Spanish governments singly and the EU
collectively) specifically affirmed that "open standards" required
royalty-free licenses. Some standards organizations, such as the W3C,
modified their processes to essentially only permit royalty-free
Patents for software, formulas and algorithms are currently
enforceable in the US but not in the EU. The European Patent
Convention Article 52 paragraph (2)(c) expressly prohibits algorithms,
business methods and software from being covered by patents. The US
has only allowed them since 1989 and there has been growing
controversy in recent years as to either the benefit or feasibility.
A standards body and its associated processes cannot force a patent
holder to give up its right to charge license fees, especially if the
company concerned is not a member of the standards body and
unconstrained by any rules that were set during the standards
development process. In fact, this element discourages some standards
bodies from adopting an "open" approach, fearing that they will lose
out if their members are more constrained than non-members. Few bodies
will carry out (or require their members to carry out) a full patent
search. Ultimately, the only sanctions a standards body can apply on a
non-member when patent licensing is demanded is to cancel the
standard, try to rework around it, or work to invalidate the patent.
Standards bodies such as
EU Commissioner Erkki Liikanen: "Open standards are important to help
create interoperable and affordable solutions for everybody. They also
promote competition by setting up a technical playing field that is
level to all market players. This means lower costs for enterprises
and, ultimately, the consumer." (World Standards Day, 14 October 2003)
Jorma Ollila, Chairman of Nokia's Board of Directors: "... Open
standards and platforms create a foundation for success. They enable
interoperability of technologies and encourage innovativeness and
healthy competition, which in turn increases consumer choice and opens
entirely new markets,"
[...] The tsunami that devastated South Eastern Asian countries and the north-eastern parts of Africa, is perhaps the most graphic, albeit unfortunate, demonstration of the need for global collaboration, and open ICT standards. The incalculable loss of life and damage to property was exacerbated by the fact that responding agencies and non-governmental groups were unable to share information vital to the rescue effort. Each was using different data and document formats. Relief was slowed, and coordination complicated. [...] — Mosibudi Mangena, Opening address of SATNAC 2005
Conformity assessment Free software Free standard Network effect Open design Open hardware Open specifications Open system (computing) Specification (technical standard) Vendor lock-in Open Data
^ Chesbrough, Henry William; Vanhaverbeke, Wim; West, Joel (2008).
"Tim Simcoe: 'Chapter 8:
Opening Standards: The Global
Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, Open
ePolicy Group, Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems
Open U.S. Standards Development for Telecommunications
Bruce Perens: Open Standards: Principles and Practice
Ken Krechmer: The Principles of Open Standards
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