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BSI faces High Court challenge over OOXML U-turn

No formal appeal to ISO yet, though

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The UK's Unix User Group (UKUUG) has convinced the High Court to carry out a judicial review of the British Standard Institute's decision to vote in favour of Microsoft's controversial Office Open XML (OOXML) specification.

The UKUUG is calling for the BSI to reverse its vote at the International Standards Organisation (ISO), which approved OOXML as a standard early last month – in the face of fierce opposition from open source fanciers.

In March this year, the BSI reversed its vote after originally opposing OOXML last autumn when Microsoft, at its first attempt, failed to fast-track the specification (DIS29500) as an international standard.

The legal challenge being mounted at the High Court has backing from a number of British open-istas including the Open Source Consortium (OSC).

OSC director Mark Taylor told The Register that the UKUUG and chums were "very confident that the BSI has a case to answer". He claimed that "they haven’t followed procedures and we want them to explain their controversial actions".

However, even if legal action against the BSI leads to the UK standards body being forced, in the form of mandatory orders, to withdraw its vote to the ISO, its impact could be muted.

Taylor agreed: "Should the BSI be asked to remove its vote, that in itself probably won’t change the outcome."

He added that the group hopes to see individuals in other countries mount similar challenges against national standards bodies in order to force the ISO to "sit up and take notice".

Perhaps more significantly, the ISO in April offered a two month window in which national standards bodies could lodge a formal appeal against OOXML proceeding to publication. The clock is ticking, and no one has stepped forward with a complaint yet.

Early last month, European anti-trust regulators also weighed in on the controversy with confirmation that they were examining the voting process behind the passing of OOXML as an international standard.

The contentious specification secured official approval on 2 April, having picked up two-thirds of the vote from delegates representing 87 national standards bodies across the world.

But the ballot was marred by allegations that Microsoft elbowed its way in by abusing its dominant role within the software market.

We requested comment from the BSI on the High Court judicial review, but it was not immediately available at time of writing. ®

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