ISO, IEC Leaders Recommend Rejection of OOXML Appeals

The leaders of the ISO and the IEC have recommended the rejection of appeals from four countries that protested a vote approving OOXML, an XML-based document format submitted by Microsoft as an international standard.

This means that DIS 29500, or Office Open XML (OOXML), likely will remain an uncontested international standard. The national bodies of Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela wanted the International Organization of Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission to re-examine the vote for various reasons, including violations associated with a ballot resolution meeting in February that eventually led to the final vote.

In a document filed to the ISO Technical Management Board (TMB), ISO Secretary-General and CEO Alan Bryden and IEC General Secretary and CEO Aharon Amit recommended that the appeals go no further because the process conformed with ISO/IEC directives.

The board has until Aug. 4 to decide whether to take on the appeals.

The ISO did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. However, some standards advocates and supporters of ODF (Open Document Format), a rival XML-based document format that the ISO approved before OOXML, are not pleased with the leaders' recommendation.

In an entry on his ConsortiumInfo.org Standards Blog, Andrew Updegrove, an intellectual-property attorney with Gesmer Updegrove LLP in Boston, expressed disappointment about the decision and the limited room for appeal of ISO votes that exists because of the rules that govern them.

Since the standards process for OOXML "was so flawed from the outset," merely "following the rules is inadequate to the events that have been witnessed, resulting in (among other outcomes) a loss of credibility for ISO/IEC, the publishing of a poor quality standard, and the endorsement of some very bad decisions along the way by those within ISO/IEC that were entrusted with those decisions," Updegrove wrote.

He added that even winning an appeal at this point would be "cold comfort after the time has been wasted by countless people around the world, the marketplace has been confused and the reputation has been tarnished."

Pamela Jones, author of the blog Groklaw, called the recommendation and the entire OOXML standards process "a farce" in a blog entry, but hinted that there's still a chance for the appeals against the vote to be processed.

"Stay tuned," she wrote. "It ain't over 'til it's over."

Microsoft submitted OOXML to Ecma International, another standards body, in an effort to fast-track it through the ISO while ODF already was going through the ISO standards process.

The OOXML fast-track process and subsequent approval by the ISO on April 1 was riddled with complaints that Microsoft acted unscrupulously, the standards process was not implemented properly, and the specification approved was too unwieldy to implement. As a result, the national bodies of Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela protested the vote.

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