In its "European Interoperability Framework for pan-European eGovernment Services" (Version 1.0, 2004, page 9), the IDABC division of European Union adopted the following definition:
USE OF OPEN STANDARDS
To attain interoperability in the context of pan-European eGovernment services, guidance needs to focus on open standards. The following are the minimal characteristics that a specification and its attendant documents must have in order to be considered an open standard:
- The standard is adopted and will be maintained by a not-for-profit organisation, and its ongoing development occurs on the basis of an open decision-making procedure available to all interested parties (consensus or majority decision etc.).
- The standard has been published and the standard specification document is available either freely or at a nominal charge. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute and use it for no fee or at a nominal fee.
- The intellectual property - i.e. patents possibly present - of (parts of) the standard is made irrevocably available on a royalty-free basis.
- There are no constraints on the re-use of the standard.
Such a definition, as good as it maybe is still confusing by the vocabulary it uses. The third sentence is confusing that they use the term "intellectual property" to refer to patents. It should be avoided as well described and explained in http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.html.
The Digistan definition of a free and open standard is based on the EU's EIF v1 definition of "open standard" with the language cleaned-up and made more explicit. Our analysis of the importance of vendor capture in determining the openness of a standard comes from this analysis.