Microsoft must wait for appeal process to run its course
The ISO standards body today confirmed that its members have approved adoption of a draft standard based on Microsoft Corp.'s Office Open XML document format, a day after the company itself declared victory.

But Microsoft will have to wait at least until June before it can lay its hands on a copy of a formal ISO standard for the format, as it waits for the Geneva-based organization's formal appeals process to run its course.

"Subject to there being no formal appeals from ISO/IEC national bodies in the next two months," the text of the standard will be published as ISO/IEC 29500, the standards body said.

If any national standards organizations make appeals to JTC1 — the Joint Technical Committee of ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) that worked on the draft — then Microsoft may have to wait several months longer while the appeal is heard, according to Section 11 of the ISO/IEC JTC1 Directives.

Only so-called P-members of JTC1 — in this case, the 41 countries that participated in development of the standard — can appeal the committee's actions. They must show that an action is either not in accordance with the JTC1 Directives, or not in the best interests of international trade and commerce or such public factors as safety, health and the environment.

Decisions on a draft international standard, such as that for OOXML, "are only eligible for consideration if questions of principle are involved; the contents of a draft may be detrimental to the reputation of IEC or ISO, or the point giving rise to objection was not known to JTC1 ... during earlier discussions," according to the directives.

The prospect of an appeal can't be ruled out.

"There are a few countries in which process issues are being raised," said Jason Matusow, a Microsoft employee who blogs about interoperability and standards.

Count Norway among them: Members of the Norwegian standards committee have asked the country's Ministry of Trade and Industry to investigate the voting process. They want to know how the country came to register a vote approving adoption of the draft standard when a majority of committee members were against it.