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IBM Announces New Policy on Standards - Updated
Tuesday, September 23 2008 @ 04:41 AM EDT

IBM has just announced a new corporate policy regarding its "behavior when helping to create open technical standards". Here's a paragraph you'll like:
IBM's new standards policy promotes simplified and consistent intellectual property practices, and emphasizes that all stakeholders, including the open source community and those in growth markets, should have equal footing as they participate in the standards process.
That would be refreshing, indeed. I think this means we will not ever again see another OOXML-like parody of a standards process. Here's why. One tenet of IBM's new policy is the following:
Begin or end participation in standards bodies based on the quality and openness of their processes, membership rules, and intellectual property policies.
Here's another goody:
Advance governance rules within standards bodies that ensure technology decisions, votes, and dispute resolutions are made fairly by independent participants, protected from undue influence.
There will be a summit meeting of experts in the field from around the world, by invitation, in November under Yale's auspices to discuss recommendations for improving standards setting. What hath Microsoft wrought! Well, they don't say that. I'm letting you hear my inner thoughts. If you have any ideas that you hope the experts will consider, now is the time to speak, right now, right here.

Update: Andy Updegrove has posted some details about the recommendations by a group of experts so far:
The development of the IBM policy was informed by a private, on-line discussion conducted over a six-week period involving the active participation of 70 government, academic, industry, policy and standards body thought leaders from around the world (disclosure: I was one of five moderators facilitating that process). The often dramatic recommendations that emerged from these discussions are now also public, and will provide the basis for an active and ongoing debate over how standards can be better developed in the future. The next step in that process is an invitation-only meeting that will be held under the auspices of Yale University in late November.

The recommendations now public range from the traditional to the radical, including a call for greater government regulation of standards activities and the formation of new global organizations to avoid patent ambushes and to raise the bar in standards development. Clearly, these are ambitious and controversial recommendations. But they have also been carefully considered by experts in the field, and tailored to the real needs of the marketplace.

I feel, as do the other moderators and participants that helped generate them, that it is important and necessary to take this dialogue to the next step, and to actively pursue implementing those recommendations that can bolster the integrity, transparency and effectiveness of a process that becomes more vitally important to the modern world with every passing day. For further details and links to the IBM Policy and the Wiki Recommendations, see: Standards Blog.

And Martin LaMonica of CNET News has this detail in his article, "IBM to shun 'rogue' standards bodies":

The IBM representative said that it's "quite possible" that the company will withdraw from some standards bodies. IBM singled out the World Wide Web Consortium as a group with good procedures.

Glynn Moody at ComputerWorld UK notes the likely next step, in his article, IBM Fires a Shot Across the ISO's Bows":

If IBM follows up these words with deeds, for example by withdrawing from the ISO standardisation process (assuming the latter is not radically reformed), then the next step would be to set up a new international standards body one where developing countries are given a far larger say. Open source communities in those regions might like to start floating the idea so as to be well-placed if and when official discussions commence.

Nicole Kobie of IT PRO phrases it nicely in her opening paragraph:

IBM today declared its love for open standards and interoperability.

*************************

IBM ANNOUNCES NEW I.T. STANDARDS POLICY

To encourage improved tech standards quality and transparency, and promote
equal participation of growth markets in globally integrated economy

ARMONK, NEW YORK . . . September 23, 2008 - IBM today announced that, effective immediately, it is instituting a new corporate policy that formalizes the company's behavior when helping to create open technical standards. Such standards enable electronic devices and software programs to interoperate with one another.

In the globally integrated economy, open technical standards are integral to enabling the delivery of everything from disaster relief services and health care, to business services and consumer entertainment. They enable governments to create economic development platforms and deliver services to their citizens.

The tenets of IBM's new policy are to:

  • Begin or end participation in standards bodies based on the quality and openness of their processes, membership rules, and intellectual property policies.

  • Encourage emerging and developed economies to both adopt open global standards and to participate in the creation of those standards.

  • Advance governance rules within standards bodies that ensure technology decisions, votes, and dispute resolutions are made fairly by independent participants, protected from undue influence.

  • Collaborate with standards bodies and developer communities to ensure that open software interoperability standards are freely available and implementable.

  • Help drive the creation of clear, simple and consistent intellectual property policies for standards organizations, thereby enabling standards developers and implementers to make informed technical and business decisions.
IBM encouraged members of standards communities to adopt similar principles, which are more stringent than required by existing laws or policies. IBM's new standards policy promotes simplified and consistent intellectual property practices, and emphasizes that all stakeholders, including the open source community and those in growth markets, should have equal footing as they participate in the standards process.

IBM described steps to put these principles into action. For example, the company will:

  • Review and take necessary actions concerning its membership in standards organizations.

  • In the regions and countries where we do business, encourage local participation in the creation and use of standards that solve the problems and meet the requirements of all affected stakeholders around the world. We will advocate governance policies in standards bodies that encourage diverse participation.

  • Work for process reform in standards organizations so that proxies or surrogates cannot be used in standards creation and approval.

  • Collaborate with standards organizations and stakeholders to streamline and consolidate intellectual property licenses and policies, with a focus on enabling software applications to become more easily interoperable by the use of open standards.
IBM's principles were inspired by the results of an online conversation facilitated by IBM during the summer of 2008, in which 70 independent, forward-thinking experts across the globe -- from academia, standards-setting, law, government, and public policy -- debated the question of whether standard setting bodies have kept pace with today's commercial, social, legal and political realities. Actionable suggestions to modernize their processes were offered during the six-week discussion (research.ibm.com//files/standards_wikis.shtml), with an eye toward increasing standards transparency, fairness, and quality.

An invitation-only summit is planned for November, under Yale University's auspices, that will flesh out recommendations from the online discussion and begin steps toward improving the standards-setting environment.

"Common, open and consensus-based technology standards from reputable standards bodies help ensure that each of us can easily purchase and interchangeably use computing technology from multiple vendors," said Bob Sutor, IBM vice president of open source and standards. "The ways in which they are created and adopted provide reasonable assurances that disparate products will work with one another, and withstand the test of time."


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