RE: Generic Property-Value Proposal for

Hi Martin,

In regards to you comment on standards bodies not publishing  web ontology versions of its classes and properties, for several years, the GS1 community [1] (representing over 1 million companies worldwide) has been working together in a consensus-based standardisation process to define product attributes, resulting in the GS1 Global Product Classification (GPC) system [2] and the data model for Global Data Synchronization (GDSN) [3].  GDSN provides business-to-business synchronisation of master data about products, between brand owners / manufacturers and retailers across the supply chain networks. The GPC dataset and GDSN data model are already freely available open standards, with downloadable XML artefacts [4] [5] - although we have not yet transformed them into a Linked Data representation.  

As part of our current GS1 project called GTIN+ on the Web [6] we are developing a Linked Data ontology around the product characteristics that we have already defined in our Global Data Dictionary. We are committed [7] to providing a free online Linked Data representation of GPC as well as a GS1 Linked Data vocabulary that can be used for describing product characteristics in detail (both qualitatively and quantitatively) and aligned with the precise definitions that the GS1 community has developed over a number of years (in GDSN and other work groups), based on the expertise of our member companies who have significant domain knowledge about product specifications, characteristics and classifications. We have been getting further involved in W3C Semantic Web efforts to avoid duplication of efforts.

We see some value in the generic property-value proposal for providing a convenient extension mechanism to support additional product characteristics that are not yet formally represented by predicates or properties in established Linked Data vocabularies such as - in particular to identify priority areas for formal standardisation of product properties in Linked Data vocabularies.

However, we also consider that this approach may be sub-optimal relative to defining one or more controlled vocabularies with HTTP URIs for important product characteristics, since an HTTP URI for a property has the advantage of providing a single unambiguous way of referring to the property, whereas free-form text strings will probably require some fuzzy matching techniques if different organisations use different text strings (possibly in different human languages) to express such property names; in contrast an HTTP URI is a globally unambiguous identifier that can support and link online to multi-lingual labels, descriptions and definitions of the property, whereas a user-defined bare text string is probably even less useful than a URN.

Of course there is a challenge to identify the most important characteristics to support in each product category and how to prioritise this work in a phased approach.  However, we need not start from a blank sheet of paper and can build on existing classification systems (such as GPC, UNSPSC, eClass etc., together with experience from mapping initiatives such as cMap [8]) and the GDSN data model, as well as the combined experience and domain knowledge of a large community of manufacturers, brand owners and retailers, who are now expressing significant interest in expressing rich structured master data about products as Linked Open Data via web pages.  Some of our members are already proceeding to piloting and are keen to deploy this and reap the benefits in terms of enhanced search listings, increased visibility on the web of products and product offerings and enabling a new ecosystem of consumer-facing product-centric information and services, accessible via smartphones and other mobile devices.

We encourage active participation in the GS1 GTIN+ on the Web work group by anyone who is interested in improving the availability of product open data on the web.  Please contact Eric for further information about getting involved.


Best Regards

Eric Kauz

Mark Harrison
Auto-ID Labs,
University of Cambridge

-----Original Message-----
From: [] 
Sent: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 9:16 PM
To: Mike Bergman
Cc: W3C Web Schemas Task Force
Subject: Re: Generic Property-Value Proposal for

> Are you saying there are legal restrictions to create mapping files between industry standards (some of which may be proprietary) and internal vocabularies? Are there any restrictions to publicly releasing such mappings?
> If these are allowable, then "hosting" the native vocabularies is immaterial.
> My understanding of the answer to these two questions is NO.  But, I only play a lawyer on TV.

I was saying that publishing an OWL vocabulary containing at least class and property labels that is directly derived from an existing classification standard requires a license from the owner of the intellectual property. That means that unless you can motivate the standards body to publish a Web ontology version of its classes and properties, it is very difficult to use that standard for structured data on the Web. I am no lawyer and can thus not assess whether collections of identifiers alone are subject to IPR, but in general, this is a non-trivial issue.

For instance, I have been trying to get legal approval from the UN from 2004 - 2007 to publish my OWL variant of on the Web, or for them to host my OWL versions on their server, and eventually gave up.

For eClass, we developed a proper OWL transformation, but since eClass lives from membership fees for accessing the full standard, they could eventually not agree to publishing the OWL version on the Web after the 5.1 version (for which they had given me permission).

And the story goes on.

With my proposal, you can immediately use the local identifiers for any of the properties from eClass, GPC, etc. for exposing product feature


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Received on Thursday, 1 May 2014 20:21:30 UTC