In a nod to the open-source community, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, or OASIS, revises its intellectual property policy to include a non-assertion mode, which means standards contributors must forgo royalty claims or license rights.
This revision now offers an added option for new technical committees to
work under: a Non-Assertion Covenant mode. Non-assertion covenants ensure that
organizations or individuals who participate in writing a standard cannot
demand royalty or exercise license rights against users or implementers of such
approved standards, OASIS said. Qualifying participants or contributors automatically
make Non-Assertion Covenants when they work in an OASIS Technical Committee
that operates under this new IPR mode.
In an interview with eWEEK, Laurent Liscia, executive director of OASIS,
said the new policy helps the standards body live up to its tag line of being
an "open standards consortium." Liscia said, "We needed the
non-assertion mode to catch up to our motto."
Carol Geyer, director of communications at OASIS, said, "We think this
is a very big deal. Non-assertion is a big departure from RAND
[Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory]; the open-source community in particular
has been calling for non-assertion, but big companies are warming to it too,
since it greatly simplifies the legal process of contributing to standards
Moreover, Geyer said that since 2005, OASIS has required members to make
their participation and contributions available on specific licensing terms.
Each OASIS technical committee chooses at inception the IPR
mode that best meets its needs, OASIS officials said. The new Non-Assertion
mode joins three existing options for OASIS committees: Reasonable and
Royalty-Free on RAND Terms; and Royalty-Free
on Limited Terms, OASIS said. The vast majority of OASIS committees operate
under a Royalty-Free mode. The requirements of each IPR
mode are defined in detail in the OASIS IPR
Liscia said up to 98 percent of OASIS technical committees already operate
as royalty-free standards efforts.
He also noted that a little more than a month into his tenure as executive
director of OASIS, the board began discussing ways to interact more with the
"We wanted to catch up with the times," Liscia said. "The
open-source movement had to have an impact on how we do business."
Although the OASIS royalty-free policy means "the owner of the IP says
you can use it as you will and I'm granting you the right to, the non-assert
new mode is more like GPL or GNU," Liscia told eWEEK. "What you
assert from the get-go is you're not asserting anything. And that's pretty
radical. The burden is reduced because vendors are saying, 'Even if we do have
a patent, we're not going to assert it.' Essentially, you are giving away the
house, so you better cross your T's before you do that. We're in open-source
The Non-Assertion mode is welcomed by many individuals and organizations
that recognize it as a way of reducing the burden of conducting extensive and
expensive patent inventory searches as well as a needed relief from patent fear
and uncertainty to implementers, OASIS said.
"The Non-Assertion mode offers a great alternative for developers, who see
it as a way to simplify their internal approval processes, and for users who
seek to eliminate the task of obtaining multiple permissions when implementing
OASIS standards," said Eduardo Gutentag of Sun Microsystems, chair of the OASIS
board of directors, in a statement. "The change comes in response to feedback
we received from our members and is in keeping with the global user community's
increasing demand for more freely available and open solutions."
OASIS technical committees that form on or after Aug. 4, 2009, will have the option to
choose the Non-Assertion mode; the change does not affect any of the existing committees
currently operating under one of the other IPR
Liscia said he believes the Non-Assertion mode will quickly become a
preferred method of standardizing new technology. "My prediction is this
is going to be a popular mode."
Liscia also said he believes software companies will be more likely to want
to pursue standards via the Non-Assertion mode. But hardware companies,
particularly those creating technology for the telecommunications and utilities
industries, "will be more reluctant because they are not used to giving
that kind of IP away," he said.
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.