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OOXML Has Software Patent Problems; Iffy OOXML Business in India Again

Many OOXML-related events are happening as the BRM in Geneva draws nearer [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. India is of particular interest and focus at the moment. It voted "No" back in September.

Mind the following new report from India:

In India, members of the Bureau of Indian Standards technical committee have raised about 82 technical issues, of which about 10 have already been resolved...


That makes a very unsatisfactory response, don't you agree? As 'many' as 10 out of 82 technical issues have been resolved after 5 months of work. Does that stop India from persisting with a "No"? Well, it probably depends, but according to this new report, ASSCOHAM is prepared to say "Yes", despite the following facts which are stated by the very same article:

Through the openness of the standard, the proprietary aspect of standards is taken out of the equation. No particular vendor can control or dominate the standard as the standardization process is open. This will enable other vendors to compete on equal terms because products can be developed freely (no IPR or royalty, open documentation) that adhere to the standard and therefore is “compatible” with existing products in the market.


Let us quickly run through some facts.

OOXML does have software patent issues (the article refers to this as IPR, much to Microsoft's convenience). We showed this time and time again and various links are appended at the bottom of this post to stress this more strongly. There are new additional sources that arrive at the very same conclusion.

Just last week (from a lawyer): IP Issues with OOXML (DIS 29500

Out of all the free and open source licences which are available, there are two which are disproportionately chosen by FOSS developers when licensing their software. Those two are the GPL and the LGPL. Of these, the GPL is disproportionately favoured over the LGPL.* If there are issues with GPL implementations then there are IP issues with OOXML. Any assurance that excludes implementation under these licences is just cause for the FOSS community to voice concern.

[...]

If there are issues with GPL implementations then there are IP issues with OOXML. Microsoft implicitly concedes there are issues with GPL implementations.


OOXML is badGetting back to the article at hand, the documentation of OOXML is far from complete. There is no single description of OOXML, either.

It is beginning to seem as though decisions are being made very poorly. We wish to remind our readers of past incidents in India, some of which we covered here before. Examples which immediately spring to mind include the possible role of strategic charity. Microsoft employees in India were caught lying, too. To give just a couple of examples that we covered here before:

1. Did Not Support OOXML Proposal: CSI

CSI wishes to clarify that at no point has CSI supported the proposed standard in its present form. In a communication to the BIS to clarify the issue, Dr. J.R. Arora, CSI's representative in BIS, states that: "I also wish to draw your attention to a news item published in the Economics Times as has been brought to my notice by the Hon. Secretary, CSI. Quoting you, it is mentioned in this news item that 'There was no need for voting as only Infosys Technologies and CSI supported Microsoft'. This statement is not correct, as CSI, in its written comments sent to BIS with a copy marked to you, has very categorically stated that it does not support the OOXML standard in its present form. In fact these remarks were read by the BIS official, Ms. Reena Garg, in the third meeting held at BIS. We are therefore shocked to read about the news stating that the CSI has supported the standard.”


2. MS, IBM-Sun slug it out on standard text format

A meeting has been called by the government in which members of both parties will meet. Microsoft India’s national technology offer Vijay Kapur counters Sun. He said OOXML was a completely open standard and its specifications were fully documented. He said there was no royalty charged and it works on a covenant of not to sue. He also said it did not recource to any proprietary information held by Microsoft.


That was of course a lie.

Getting back to today's reports, watch the following response to ASSCOHAM's unexpected steps. They didn't contact other crucial parties. It is almost as though they simply work secretly, in isolation (shades of eastern Europe).

The Open Source Foundation of India would like to place on record its objections to ASSCOHAM's stance on OOXML. Neither us nor the Open Document Format Alliance (www.odfalliance.in) nor the Free Software Foundation (www.fsf.org.in), which have been leading the fight for open standards were consulted before ASSOCHAM issued its press release. An industry body is expected to listen to all sides of a debate before arriving at a conclusion and we are disappointed that a respected body like ASSOCHAM, which has temendous credibility among policy makers has not followed this process.


Needless to repeat it, there is a disappointment here, but hopefully our readers from India can take this information further and make use of it.

Related links: (OOXML and software patents)

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