Crap Factoid Alert: "ITIL is non-proprietary"

Please everybody look up "proprietary" in the dictionary and understand that ITIL is proprietary. I can't believe that every single ITIL vendor is illiterate, so I have to think they are spreading a Crap Factoid. And boy! how it is spreading!

"Proprietary" according to Merriam-Webster

something that is used, produced, or marketed under exclusive legal right of the inventor or maker...protected by secrecy, patent, or copyright


...a party, or proprietor, exercises private ownership, control or use over an item of property, usually to the exclusion of other parties

4. belonging or controlled as property.
5. manufactured and sold only by the owner of the patent, formula, brand name, or trademark associated with the product

So please can we all get it clear in our heads. ITIL is copyright. ITIL is owned by the British Crown. The Crown has contracted the proprietary rights to publication and accreditation to private for-profit companies.

I believe the source of this weasel-word is ITIL itself. OGC deleted the term "public domain" as much too risky. So now they have substituted "non-proprietary".

ITIL is proprietary. Are you listening



Just another example of the internal contradictions within ITIL v.3. In the same paragraph they say that ITIL is not proprietary and that it is owned by OGC.

Here's a couple more definitions:

credible - offering reasonable grounds for being believed

trust - 1 a: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something b: one in which confidence is placed

Cary King
Minerva Enterprises
Managing Partner

Vendor Neutral...

1. I think that even the use of "non-proprietary" is a bit misleading. It would have been much better to call it "vendor neutral". OGC could have said this, as they are an organization that serves the Crown (ultimately serving the citizens).
2. How can it be that it is "... not tied to any commercial proprietary practice or solution". The OGC may not have done it, but vendors certainly have. PinkVerify is just one example. This seems to me to be a distractor. Maybe I'm slicing the sandwich meat (on this point) too thin. And just to be clear (before anyone starts to beat me up on this), I don't think that this is wrong. Any framework that is truly viable should see this happen. Ties into vendors are an important milestone in the lifecycle, else it's just another vendor approach.
3. There is clearly ownership. Books have been published. The books cost money. You buy the books and use them the way you see fit, as long as you don't violate the copyright license provisions.

she will sue your mule

You can use the ideas any way you see fit. You can't use the words; the Queen owns them, and she will sue your mule if you use them without paying due tithe. TSO owns the right to sell the words, and APMG owns the right to teach them.

OGC couldn't have patented the ideas, though that isn't stopping Microsft from trying. So OGC can't own the ideas, but the brand is trademarked and the words are copyright. They have it as sewn up and proprietary as they can.

vendor neutral? I don't see PinkVerify as non-neutral: it is just a value-add product like a registry-cleaning tool for Windows. I do see TSO and APMG as relevant: their exclusive basis calls vendor neutrality into question. So too does the selection of major vendors to be the authors (blog on that soon). So too does the potential dominance of governance bodies by major vendors - I don't use the word "dominance" yet but we should all stay alert in case the gorrilla strangles the pig.

Not my Mule!


1. Well, if you did use the words or diagrams (at least in a manner inconsistent with fair use in the U.S.), you would be violating my point #3. So, really how you interpret what you read (give meaning to the ideas) is key. Indeed, to do anything substantial with the materials that would make a difference in an organization would require a license. IIRC, there are two licenses one for use of the materials and one for value add. Can anyone help out on this? My memory isn't great... bravo for Google! LOL

I intentionally left of the teaching part because, classes that are designed to teach a test do not count as valid learning in my book. My foundation class was all about that. Everything else I learned, I got on my own with sufficient investment of time and money. APMG also has the testing bit too, not just the teaching! So, in theory, they could (before long) become a sole source provider. I think that would be a bad move, but hey... stranger things have happened.

2. My use of PinkVerify (my point #2) was not intended to be an illustration of vendor neutrality (my point #1). I believe that you have unintentionally collapsed these together. With that said:

  • I will concede that putting APMG into the mix does alter that equation and undermine my point. That's what I get for trying to be generous! ;-) It's no secret that APMG is a commercial entity and not engaged in promoting ITIL for altruistic purposes -- they aim to make money, as any commercial organization should. Else why should they exist? If not, they should be a non-profit! An entirely different beast. Can a for profit institution still make money and have it benefit the community? Yes, one can. Is it common? I think not.
  • I think Pink is a good example of an organization that illustrates a tie to commercial practice/product. In doing so, the implicit communication is that the product is more valuable because of its ties to the framework. As I have no direct experience of it, I cannot offer a qualified opinion or observation on whether that is indeed the case.

3. I am not familiar with the process used to select the authors, but certainly believe that you have a valid point. It causes me to think of some questions:

  • Who made the call that appointed the authors?
  • Who decided on the initial content?
  • Who provided the oversight?
  • What were the goals/objectives?
  • What process was used to achieve a quality outcome?
  • What specific community input was used to evolve the framework?
  • What criterion were established to establish answers to these questions?
  • Did what was produced actually meet those goals/objectives?

I've got my ideas about the answers to these questions, most of them I don't like. I think it's fairly obvious that there is no (or very little) transparency here. As this is a commercial product and the OGC only answers to its superiors (and ultimately the Queen, as you noted), there was no real need for transparency beyond what those superiors required. What the consumer ultimately required, doesn't appear to have been a key consideration. After all, with all of the talk about quality/improvement, shouldn't how the framework is managed be its own best example (by following "best practice") in its evolution? I think so. Apparently, I'm in the minority. Maybe I'm a bit too idealistic. So be it!


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