No real details on this yet. But a quick examination of the Board of Directors page over at OASIS' web site reveals that after barely five months at the helm, OASIS Chairman of the Board Jim Hughes (of HP)--who held that title as recently as yesterday--has been replaced by Sun's Eduardo Gutentag. According to that page, Hughes has not taken another post on OASIS' board. In March 2005, Hughes took the place of Intel's Colin Evans, who served on the OASIS board for four years. The change wasn't entirely unplanned. Prior to it being removed from OASIS' Board of Directors web page, Hughes' bio indicated that his term as chairman would only extend through July of this year. The Board's replacement of Hughes with Gutentag could signal a fundamental shift at the so-called standards consortium that I just recently referred to as a patent shelter (based on its current patent policy).
Gutentag is widely regarded as one of the shakers and movers at the World Wide Web Consortium that was involved in that organization's adoption of a royalty-free (RF) patent policy in 2003. As a member of OASIS' intellectual property committee, Gutentag's ascension to the Chairman's job could signal how serious OASIS is taking the charges that were levied against the organization earlier this year when a group of people that reads like the who's who ofthe open source community called for a boycott of the consortium because of a recently adopted (and controversial) patent policy. That policy added a royalty-free track that's similar to the RF track that was adopted at the W3C. However, the RF option was only added as an alternative to (not as replacement for) OASIS' more patent friendly RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory) track. RAND is widely regarded as a form of licensing that can afford patent holders an unusual amount of control over de jure standards should the standards setting body that ratifies those standards permit that sort of licensing (which OASIS does).
More recently, the issue of privity -- where licensees must explicitly execute a license with a licensor -- has become a hot button for certain OASIS standards. Under OASIS' existing patent policy, patent holders can require privity of a standard's licensees. However, requiring privity runs completely counter to open source licensing (you agree to the license when you take delivery and start using or modifying the software without needing to notify the licensor of that acceptance). As a result, ground zero for the pending reconciliation of incompatibilities between open standards and open source is the current conflict between the patent policy under which certain OASIS-ratified Web services standards are licensed and the open source license that governs the licensing of software from the Apache Software Foundation. Because of the privity-related incompatibilities between the licenses of the two organizations, the ASF cannot incorporate certain Web services specifications into its software -- specifications that users of that software will desperately need if they're to involve their Web sites in the now growing Web services ecosystem. If more details regarding the leadership change become available, I'll add an update to this blog.