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UBL, the Universal Business Language, is the product of an international effort to define a royalty-free library of standard electronic XML business documents such as purchase orders and invoices. Developed in an open and accountable OASIS Technical Committee with participation from a variety of industry data standards organizations, UBL is designed to plug directly into existing business, legal, auditing, and records management practices, eliminating the re-keying of data in existing fax- and paper-based supply chains and providing an entry point into electronic commerce for small and medium-sized businesses.


What needs does the solution address

Since its approval as a W3C recommendation in 1998, XML has been adopted in a number of industries as a framework for the definition of the messages exchanged in electronic commerce. The widespread use of XML has led to the development of multiple industry-specific XML versions of such basic documents as purchase orders, shipping notices, and invoices.

While industry-specific data formats have the advantage of maximal optimization for their business context, the existence of different formats to accomplish the same purpose in different business domains is attended by a number of significant disadvantages as well.

  • Developing and maintaining multiple versions of common business documents like purchase orders and invoices is a major duplication of effort.
  • Creating and maintaining multiple adapters to enable trading relationships across domain boundaries is an even greater effort.
  • The existence of multiple XML formats makes it much harder to integrate XML business messages with back-office systems.
  • The need to support an arbitrary number of XML formats makes tools more expensive and trained workers harder to find.


The OASIS Universal Business Language (UBL) is intended to help solve these problems by defining a generic XML interchange format for business documents that can be restricted or extended to meet the requirements of particular industries. Specifically, UBL provides the following:

  • A suite of structured business objects and their associated semantics expressed as reusable data components and common business documents.
  • A library of XML schemas for reusable data components such as “Address”, “Item”, and “Payment”—the common data elements of everyday business documents.
  • A set of XML schemas for common business documents such as “Order”, “Despatch Advice”, and “Invoice” that are constructed from the UBL library components and can be used in generic procurement and transportation contexts.

Intended Audience

Trading Communties, Interoperability projects, eBusiness Service Providers, eBusiness implementers, eBusiness policy makers.


How to reuse the solution?

UBL is designed to provide a universally understood and recognized syntax for legally binding business documents and to operate within a standard business framework such as ISO 15000 (ebXML) to provide a complete, standards-based infrastructure that can extend the benefits of existing EDI systems to businesses of all sizes. UBL is freely available to everyone without legal encumbrance or licensing fees.

UBL schemas are modular, reusable, and extensible in XML-aware ways. As the first standard implementation of ebXML Core Components Technical Specification 2.01, the UBL Library is based on a conceptual model of information components known as Business Information Entities (BIEs). These components are assembled into specific document models such as Order and Invoice. These document models are then transformed in accordance with UBL Naming and Design Rules into W3C XSD schema syntax. This approach facilitates the creation of UBL-based document types beyond those specified in this release.

The following videos explain how to navigate the UBL standard specification and how UBL addresses specific business requirements including use cases of reuse of UBL for transportation and procurement fields. Finally, the last video shows how UBL can be customized.






















Used standards

  • [ASN.1] ITU-T X.680-X.683: Abstract Syntax Notation One (ASN.1), ITU-T X.690-X.693: ASN.1 encoding rules
  • [CCTS] ISO/TS 15000-5:2005 Electronic Business Extensible Markup Language (ebXML)— Part 5: ebXML Core Components Technical Specification, Version 2.01 (identical to Part 8 of the ebXML Framework) 
  • [CPFR] Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Standards, Collaborative Planning, Forecasting, and Replenishment Version 2.0, Global Commerce Initiative Recommended Guidelines, June 2002
  • [Customization] OASIS Committee Specification 01, UBL 2 Guidelines for Customization, First Edition, 25 December 2009
  • [CVA] OASIS Context/value association using Genericode 1.0. 15 April 2010. Committee Specification 01
  • [genericode] OASIS Code List Representation (Genericode) Version 1.0. 28 December 2007. Committee Specification 01.
  • [ISO11179] ISO/IEC 11179-1:1999 Information technology — Specification and standardization of data elements — Part 1: Framework for the specification and standardization of data elements
  • [RELAX NG] ISO/IEC 19757-2, Information technology — Document Schema Definition Language (DSDL) — Part 2: Regular-grammar-based validation — RELAX NG , Information technology — Document Schema Definition Language (DSDL) — Part 2: Regular-grammar-based validation — RELAX NG AMENDMENT 1: Compact Syntax
  • [RFC2119] Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels
  • [SCH] Document Schema Definition Languages (DSDL) — Part 3: Rule-based validation (Schematron)
  • [UML] Unified Modeling Language Version 1.5 (formal/03-03-01)
  • [XAdES] XML Advanced Electronic Signatures. ETSI TS 101 903 V1.4.1, June 2009. 
  • [XML] Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0 (Second Edition), W3C Recommendation 6 October 2000
  • [xmldsig] XML-Signature Syntax and Processing. W3C Recommendation 12 February 2002
  • [XSD1] XML Schema Part 1: Structures. Second Edition. W3C Recommendation 28 October 2004
  • [XSD2] XML Schema Part 2: Datatypes. Second Edition. W3C Recommendation 28 October 2004
  • [XSLT] XSL Transformations (XSLT) Version 1.0, W3C Recommendation 16 November 1999
  • UBL can also be regarded as a generic Open-edi Configuration in the perspective of the Open-edi Reference Model (ISO/IEC 14662:2010).

Link to public policies

Beginning with the 2005 adoption of UBL for all public sector invoicing in Denmark (a transition that continues to save that government some 100 million euros in labor costs annually), UBL has become through its CEN BII localization the foundation for a number of successful European public procurement frameworks, including EHF (Norway), Svefaktura (Sweden), ePrior (European Commission DIGIT), and PEPPOL, a growing pan-European procurement infrastructure whose participants currently include government agencies from Austria, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, and Sweden. Other implementations for public and private sector eInvoicing include E-Fatura (Turkey), Factura Electronica (Peru), SimplerInvoicing (the Netherlands), and Tradeshift (global).

The European Commission has declared UBL officially eligible for referencing in tenders from public administrations.

UBL has also become foundational to a number of efforts in the transport domain, including eFreight (European Commission - DG MOVE). 

In keeping with the original vision of UBL as a standard basis for electronic business in general, UBL is now increasingly used by organizations whose scope extends beyond the generic Buy-Ship-Pay model. These include the European Commission's Textile, Clothing, and Footwear industry group (eBiz-TCF).
For more information
For more information, please visit and mores specifically the FAQ
Release date: 19/03/2015


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