Section title: News
X12 Blog

Evolving X12’s Licensing Model for the Greater Good

Forty years ago, members of U.S. business and technology communities who believed in building Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) standards to perform nearly every aspect of uniform Business-to-Business (B2B) data communications came together and launched X12. They shouldered the majority of costs to develop standards that have led to the exponential growth in usage of the cross-industry organization’s work upholding the majority of the world’s B2B data exchanges.

As an historic ANSI-Accredited Standards Developer (ASD), X12 consensus-based standards have kept pace with industry’s evolving needs, as have its licensing programs, ever focused on the greater good. Indeed, here’s a quick snapshot of X12’s licensing history:

  • From the 1970s to 2016, X12 offered perpetual licensing rights for many of its products, enabling licensees to incur one modest fee for use of X12’s products.
  • In 2010, rights to many of X12’s work products were also offered individually or in predefined sets via single and multi-user licenses.
  • By 2019, because X12’s products had evolved significantly and included online access to its standards and related products, individual product licensing was discontinued in favor of agreements permitting access to X12’s full library of standards and supporting products.
  • Today, development and maintenance costs are spread across a much larger base, resulting in most organizations paying significantly less while also getting access to significantly more X12 products.

The present licensing model brings X12’s approach full circle to better meet the needs of its extensive member organizations and the industries collectively served.

X12 licensing categories meet diverse needs

The incremental licensing enhancements X12 has implemented strive to be fair, reasonable, and reflective of today’s most common licensing methodologies. Recognizing the nuances of how diverse organizations use and benefit from X12’s products, X12 offers four license categories that grant rights to published work and include:

  1. Development Partner supports entities or individuals who are building or implementing solutions or functionality that incorporates X12 standards and associated products. This license provides access to all of X12's downloadable or online viewable work. Development licensees are expected to transition to a Commercial or Internal Use License once an application is in production with a service offering or solution that utilizes X12’s work. Examples of Development licensees are software vendors, service providers, and other organizations building a solution that supports the exchange of X12 metadata.
  1. Internal Use Partner is for organizations that intend to use X12's work, including the content of its standards, guides, or code lists, internally to build or combine with existing applications and exchange of information with trading partners. Examples of Internal Use licensees include trading partners such as insurance companies, retailers, suppliers, implementers, and financial institutions.
  1. Commercial Use Partner is for organizations of all types and sizes that intend to use X12's work and the content of its standards, guides, or code lists embedded into a solution that, in turn, they license to a customer or another third party. Examples of Commercial Use licensees include software vendors, EDI service providers, clearinghouses, and value-added networks (VANs).
  1. User is for end-users of commercial software, such as individuals subscribing to Glass, X12’s online standards viewer, and users of products and services provided by Commercial Use Licensing Partners.

Balancing changing member needs and industry use to secure the future

The impetus behind X12’s current licensing model is all about balancing member needs while evolving to maintain long-term sustainability by spreading the related cost more evenly across those that accrue value from use of X12 work. We’re securing future development with new versions and derivatives, which takes many forms, to support diverse member applications that serve multi-industry needs.

How users access X12 products is also evolving. Much has changed since the days of publishing EDI standards and related work in hardbound books containing thousands of pages shipped to purchasers. Today, X12’s work in digital format is viewable online and available to licensees in other formats as well, enabling more than 320 transaction sets across supply chain, health care, transportation, finance, and insurance industries. X12’s stratified licensing approach permits access to this full library of standards and supporting products based on the intended use.

These are exciting times for X12 and we are committed to developing and maintaining the standards and products members and industries depend on with proven and emerging technologies. This includes the X12 metadata contained in the EDI Standard ─ proven to be the foundational building blocks ─ which connect trading partners through successful B2B communications and messaging. For more information about X12 and its licensing model, contact us at

Authored by: Todd Cochrane, X12 Licensing Program Manager