Open Standards Requirement for Software

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Draft proposed by the Open Source Initiative



Russell Nelson:

"The patent system is supposed to be used to protect mechanisms, so that people who invest in building these mechanisms can have exclusive rights to these mechanisms. Unfortunately, in the USA, that a mechanism which can be built using software has been interpreted to mean that software can be patented. Unfortunately, many previously invented software mechanisms have been patented. Software patents are allowed even when they are obvious to any skilled practitioner of the art. This is very bad when software patents get written into standards documents, because that prohibits open source implementations. We're pushing back with our "Open Standards Requirement for Software". This is a new program whose details are not completely settled yet." (


The Requirement

An "open standard" must not prohibit conforming implementations in open source software.

The Criteria

To comply with the Open Standards Requirement, an "open standard" must satisfy the following criteria. If an "open standard" does not meet these criteria, it will be discriminating against open source developers.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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

4. 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.

5. No OSR-Incompatible Dependencies: Implementation of the standard MUST NOT require any other technology that fails to meet the criteria of this Requirement." (

More Information

Open Source Definition