Defining standards – need or semantics ?

Venky writes about his observations on the state of affairs at the BIS Summit (incidentally I guess this was the one where Craig Mundie muddled up standards, specifications and intellectual property) and concludes that a lot of ground needs to be covered for getting the concept of Open Standards across. Here’s what the Wikipedia says about Open Standards (italics are mine):

Open standards are publicly available and implementable standards. By allowing anyone to obtain and implement the standard, they can increase compatibility between various hardware and software components, since anyone with the necessary technical know-how and resources can build products that work together with those of the other vendors that base their designs on the standard. Many technical specifications that are sometimes considered standards are proprietary rather than being open, and are only available under restrictive contract terms (if they can be obtained at all) from the organization that owns the copyright for the specification. 

There are examples of such standards here.

I mildly disagree with Venky here. The one singular issue that has stood out at every (in)formal body of standards folks I have attended is the mixing up of standards with specifications and therein move on to the slippery slope of IP (Intellectual Property). Apparently, there isn’t a way one can traverse that ground however given that the standards committee/bodies are normally populated by gentle folks from the world of research the captivating essence of IP is not far. What does not however get discussed is the need to distinguish IP from public knowledge and this I think would put a finer understanding of the concept of Open Standards. The key context of the usage of the word standards is that it could mean a common set of guidelines that facilitate interoperability. Thus, taking an example, the font rule-sets are public knowledge but the glyph shapes (the cursive elegance perhaps) is an intellectual property. I am not a lawyer so I might be way off track in this example but it suffices to convey what I am trying to get at.

The need of the hour is to detach the intellectual property bit from Open Standards so that comprehension of the concept and usage of the same is facilitated. This would be more important in cases where one is talking to the government at the state or central level to adopt and use more of Open Standards. The explanation should also include aspects of how the economics of business is not harmed by adopting Open Standards.