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Subject: RE: OpenFormula, OpenDocument & the OASIS IPR

Original Message from “David Wheeler”:

Okay, I've posted a first (rough) draft of "OpenFormula".
It is at:

Other stuff is at:

I believe that OpenDocument's release should NOT depend on the completeness of OpenFormula - send OpenDocument on
to its next stage when you're ready!

The only issue I have with OpenDocument related to formulas is that I think anim:formula and draw:formula should be changed
to use ";" as their function parameter separators. If the OpenDocument spec is changed to make ";" the separator,
then they become compatible with table:formula, and I think that'd be a good idea.

--- David A. Wheeler

REPLY to David Wheeler:

Hi David,

Thanks for pushing this important effort forward.  I read through your interesting comments about the OASIS IPR disaster, and couldn't agree with you more.  And we're all grateful for the research work you did regarding the original Open Office XML file format submission to OASIS (insert giant sigh of relief here).  It looks as though your sissyphean effort with OpenFormula is also paying off. 

Are you willing to submit OpenFormula to OpenOffice.org as a new project?  Review the licensing options and take on the Project lead role? 

At the weekly OASIS OpenDocument TC meetings your project is much discussed.  The consensus seems to be that we really need to get the OpenOffice.org and KOffice developers involved.  The sooner we do that, the sooner we can move towards incorporating  a fully tested and operational OpenFormula into the OpenDocument specification - either directly or as a referenced subset.  And with the recent OASIS IPR disaster, my inclination is to go forward within the embrace of open source communities.  That way your project immediately falls under the restrictions of the initial OO submission.  Open, Royalty free, and set to stay that way. Registering OpenFormula as an OOo project will also enable a far wider degree of participation than if we try to append the effort as either a sub committee of the OASIS OpenDocument TC, or a work in progress.

Besides, i don't think i'd be too far off the mark in assuming that anyone offering an alternative desktop productivity environment (as opposed to MS Office System) wouldn't be similarly interested in moving OpenFormula forward. That would of course include Sun, Novell, IBM and Adobe – all of whom have notified the EU that their desktop systems are in compliance with the EU Open Standards – Open XML file format requirement.

The requirements, options, and benefits of submitting OpenFormula as a new OOo project can be found at:

I would be pleased to personally introduce  the application for the new project, and also invite the KOffice crowd to join.

Let me also add that i'm very sorry about the recent OASIS IPR decision.  No doubt Patrick Gannon and Consortia are under enormous pressure to accommodate the ownership demands of member software systems providers. To the world of computational consumers and open source participants though, it must seem as though they are determined to flush a good name down the toilet.  

OASIS as a name used to mean "open standard", as in open, accessible to all, and entirely unencumbered.  Now the name is perhaps well on its way to meaning nothing.  Let's hope the roar of the world over the rape and pillage of our global commons is heard at OASIS.

Recently Mr. Gannon sent out an explanation to the membership that i've quoted below for your reference. He defends the IPR by taking the position that encumbered and RAND licenses for OASIS Standards projects have always been available. And that the new IPR policy simply clarifies things. Having studied the documents, i couldn't disagree more. And since you've taken the time to comment at Groklaw, and since this new clarification will greatly impact the confusion in the public marketplace regarding both OpenDocument and OpenFormula, i'd like to state the reasons for my disagreement.

In spite of Patrick's opening assurance, the new clarifications will have exactly the opposite impact as he suggests. With these new rules, the consortium's commitment to the development of truly Open Standards will take an incredible hit:

<Patrick> “Our revised IPR Policy was specifically designed to strengthen, not weaken, the consortium's commitment to the development of truly open standards, assuring that standards developed under the royalty free modes can be implemented in open source software.” <......./>

It's interesting to compare the new IPR policy with the legacy statement.

Revised OASIS IPR Policy

Legacy OASIS IPR Policy

One can't help but notice stark differences. The legacy statement clearly makes open, unencumbered, and royalty free the default license model. Standards proposals that are in some way royalty-bearing, patent encumbered, and/or RAND heavy are clearly exceptions to the rule. In fact, the legacy policy goes to great lengths to make approval for such exceptions most difficult to obtain. Even after TC approval, OASIS Board of Directors approval, and survival of public comment, a royalty bearing or RAND encumbered specification still faces the trails of the standard copyright notice, and the demands of TC members having to sign off on each and every encumbrance at the time of the infraction. Again, the default is that of a truly Open Standard.

All that changes under the new IPR guidelines where there are three equally posited licensing choices. Only one of which is befitting of a truly open standard. Gone is the difficult and onerous process of carving out a royalty bearing or RAND exception – and then maintaining that exception.  No longer is there Board of Director, community and public oversight. Each TC now chooses their own license.  And these choices can easily be amended simply by changing the TC charter. Something we've done with the OpenDocument charter a number of times.

At the time a TC is chartered, the proposal to form the TC must specify the IPR Mode under which the Technical Committee will operate. This Policy describes three (3) IPR Modes.

  1. RAND - requires all Obligated Parties to license their Essential Claims using the RAND licensing elements described in Section 10.1.

  2. RF on RAND Terms - requires all Obligated Parties to license their Essential Claims using the RF licensing elements described in Sections 10.2.1 and 10.2.2.

  3. RF on Limited Terms - requires all Obligated Parties to license their Essential Claims using the RF licensing elements described in Sections 10.2.1 and 10.2.3.

A TC may not change its IPR Mode without closing and submitting a new charter.

I guess what bothers me most about this OASIS IPR business is that it signals the end of a great lineage. OASIS began life as the Open SGML standards group. SGML predates HTML, which predates XML. This is critically important because the Internet is becoming the foundation of everything digital. Internet protocols are making their way into every application and every business process. Infiltrating the entire computational stack. The fourth wave of computing is further compounded in that Open XML technologies are clearly the successors to HTML. Through the development and implementation of Open XML technologies, the Internet moves from status as a simple, but universal connectivity and exchange platform, to that of becoming a universal platform of connectivity and collaborative computing. As Joel Spolsky famously said, “The Internet is the computer, and HTML the API”. So say hello to XML, the computationally ready successor to HTML. Here is the essence of the fourth wave.

The changes at OASIS will greatly interfere with this future in that they seriously cloud the ubiquity factor of what should otherwise be open standards. While Open XML Technologies tend to be developed within the very open, but entirely unprotected (no GPL) W3C process, it is at OASIS where the standards of implementation and collaborative business processes are perfected. Where software vendors and information systems providers couldn't own the incredibly important and influential sprawl of ubiquitous Internet technologies such as HTML and XML, they now seek to own the implementations and process methods. The patent office (USPTO) is overflowing with applications referencing open XML technologies as the baseline for varying common sense and incredibly obvious implementations. The changes at OASIS now provide a means for embedding those bogus and highly suspect patents into pseudo standards that have the imprimatur of an Open Standards Organization. A means of completing this circle of theft of the commons now in place.

So what shall we say? Some OASIS efforts will be open..  Some will not.  Some will masquerade as open.  Others will choose honest transparency and fully disclose their restrictions and encumbrances.  All in all, this is a sad day.  But not entirely unexpected. One look at the IPR committee says it all. Not one Open Source community or computational consumers group represented.

The only saving grace the public will have to fall back on will be to successfully identify those OASIS standards that were “submitted” to OASIS with an IPR kill clause. For whatever reason, when Sun and OpenOffice.org submitted the OOo XML file format to OASIS, they put a kill clause into the submission license. The clause nails the OpenDocument specification into the public domain as a truly open, un encumbered, and royalty free standard. Without a similar kill clause, every OASIS effort is suspect. The simplicity of changing a charter at any time to include royalty bearing and RAND based encumbrances now hangs like a Damoclean sword over near everything now bearing the OASIS name. Nothing is safe unless that IPR kill clause was put into place at the time of first submission.

So much for “the consortium's commitment to the development of truly open standards, assuring that standards developed under the royalty free modes can be implemented in open source software.”

Please. Somebody show me i'm wrong.

Thanks again David for the considerable effort you've put into OpenDocument and OpenFormula. Your work is much appreciated.


Message from Patrick Gannon to OASIS Members:

OASIS members,

Many of you may have seen recent articles and postings from individuals inthe open source community regarding the revised OASIS IPR Policy.

First, let me assure you that OASIS values the contributions and viewpoints of those who support open source software which include many of our members, and many other developers across the globe who build open source implementations of OASIS specifications. Our revised IPR Policy was specifically designed to strengthen, not weaken, the consortium's commitment to the development of truly open standards, assuring that standards developed under the royalty free modes can be implemented in open source software.

Second, please allow me to correct some of the inaccuracies being published.

1) The revised OASIS IPR Policy does not offer Royalty Free (RF) as a "secondary option." Almost every standards organization in our field has
both a royalty-free track and a royalty-bearing track of some kind. We have, for a long time, and we still do. In our recent revision, we made our own royalty-free track clearer and more enforceable. All TCs are presented with three options--two of which make RF mandatory. We added these options in response to requests from members who want to produce RF standards at OASIS. With these three modes, we give you the freedom of choice as to which committees to participate in and which OASIS Standards to implement.

2) We have not suddenly adopted a RAND policy. The RAND baseline was part of the OASIS IPR Policy that was approved five years ago. Three years ago we began allowing new committees to adopt RF language in their TC Charters.

Many TCs have been formed since then adopting that language, and many more of the TCs formed without that language (with RAND baseline) incorporate contributions made on a royalty free basis.

3) OASIS advances a wide variety of specifications, which can be implemented in both open source and non-open source software. In this respect, we are similar to ISO, ANSI, and the majority of other standards organizations. Our members collaborate to produce specifications, not write code. Because of the diversity of our membership and the broad range of standards activities, our members have consistently asked for different modes to support different types of activities. To completely eliminate RAND as an option (as the signers of the Rosen petition advocate) would deny those OASIS members who choose to work under those terms their current rights.

4) In today's reality, no standards organization can ensure that its work is or will remain completely free of patent claims. There is always a risk that some unknown party in the world holds a patent that they will claim is essential for implementation in software of a specific standard, whether
open source or not. The most any standards organization can do is provide clear, equitable rules to govern those who participate in its work and publicly document the licensing commitment of participants. This revised policy takes great care to make the process and behavior of articipants even clearer. Thus this policy provides even greater protection for those who wish to develop open source software which implements an OASIS standard from a royalty free mode committee.

5) Legal review of the revised policy was engaged specifically to ensure that it did not prevent the implementation in open source software of OASIS specifications developed under one of the RF modes. Last fall, the draft policy was made available to all 4,000 OASIS members, many of whom are active developers of open source software. Input from that member review was instrumental in creating the final IPR Policy. (Thanks again to all members who participated in that review process.)

Moving forward, OASIS has invited advocates in the open source community to confer with us, to give us an opportunity to set the record straight, listen to one another's concerns in a productive manner, and dispel further miscommunication.

OASIS staff is currently conducting training sessions with our TC Chairs and will also be offering briefing sessions to members on the revised IPR Policy, to provide you with more information and answer specific questions.

The member briefing sessions will be presented at several different days and times, which will be announced soon.

In the meantime, we encourage you all to thoughtfully review the revised IPR Policy, compare it with the legacy version, and consult the supporting FAQ documents. We continue to invite all those who feel strongly about this issue to actively participate within OASIS Committees, where you can productively express your viewpoints--and contribute to each committee's selection of its own IPR mode.

Best regards,

Patrick Gannon

President & CEO
630 Boston Road
Billerica, MA 01821
+1.978.667.5115 x201 - office


Revised OASIS IPR Policy


Legacy OASIS IPR Policy


OASIS IPR Transition Policy


Revised OASIS IPR Policy FAQ


OASIS IPR Transition Policy FAQ


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