UBL: Yet another business language? (2/2) - exploring XML
UBL: Yet another business language?
Relation to ebXML
The ebXML initiative is complementary to UBL and is neutral with regard to particular XML syntaxes. ebXML delivered three basic components of a first-generation infrastructure for XML-based electronic commerce: a specification for XML messaging, a specification for trading partner agreements, and a specification for registries and repositories. These specifications were designed in a way that allows businesses to use any one of them separately or all three together. UBL is intended to provide the standard documents to be exchanged over standard messaging, after the partners have been looked up in a registry.
UBL will align the vocabulary inherited from xCBL with all of the other inputs to this process -- EDI, ebXML, cXML, RosettaNet, OAGIS, and so on. Second, a methodology for assembling components needs to be specified so that, for example, a purchase order to be used in a particular business context can be assembled from the generic pieces in the core library. These processes are expected to take between one and two years to finish.
UBL shall appeal to small and medium-size businesses. Strong emphasis on testing is planned to ensure that the systems continue to work as the language evolves.
The problem with IPR
Intellectual property rights (IPR) were designed to protect an inventor from having her invention exploited by other parties without her consent. While this instrument has been and continues to be an important instrument to enable substantial investments in various areas of research, recent silliness in patenting software seriously endangers use of technology that was intended for free information and data exchange in the first place.
Today anybody can write a DTD and insist on copyright, no matter how trivial the definition. Patents have been awarded on otherwise established processes like reverse auctioning just because they are now applied to the Internet, and fundamental software engineering techniques such as component-based assembly only since they now make up Web pages. While most of these efforts might not stand up to proper investigation, precisely this investigation is costly and time-consuming, which is the main reason for filing these patents in the first place. Make sure you understand the licence terms of software and technology that you use.
Coming back to UBL, the intellectual property rights policy of OASIS is basically identical to that of the IETF. The people involved in UBL are contributing their work with the understanding that the result will be "freely available to everyone without licensing or other fees."
More problems with IPR will hopefully be avoided in that business documents are much more fundamental in nature and have been around long enough so that they are rather affected by copyright more so than patents. This will be alleviated by starting with xCBL, which gives the clear legal right to make a derivative work, and creating that work in an organization dedicated to making its specifications free to everyone. Let's hope for the best.
Produced by Michael Claßen
Created: Nov 26, 2001
Revised: Nov 26, 2001