An open standard is a standard that is openly accessible and usable by anyone.

It is also common practice to use open standards with an open license.

Generally, anybody can participate in their development due to their inherently open nature. There is no single definition, and interpretations vary with usage.

The terms open and standard have a wide range of meanings associated with their usage. There are a number of definitions of open standards which emphasize different aspects of openness, including the openness of the resulting specification, the openness of the drafting process, and the ownership of rights in the standard. The term “standard” is sometimes restricted to technologies approved by formalized committees that are open to participation by all interested parties and operate on a consensus basis.

The definitions of the term open standard used by academics, the European Union, and some of its member governments or parliaments such as Denmark, France, and Spain preclude open standards requiring fees for use, as do the New Zealand, South African and the Venezuelan governments. On the standard organisation side, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) ensures that its specifications can be implemented on a royalty-free basis.

Many definitions of the term standard permit patent holders to impose “reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing” royalty fees and other licensing terms on implementers or users of the standard.

There are those in the open-source software community who hold that an “open standard” is only open if it can be freely adopted, implemented and extended. While open standards or architectures are considered non-proprietary in the sense that the standard is either unowned or owned by a collective body, it can still be publicly shared and not tightly guarded.

Open standards which specify formats are sometimes referred to as open formats.

Open standards for IT are often associated with APIs (Application Programming Interface)