The UK and France have voted against adoption of Microsoft's document format Office Open XML as an international standard, while Australia has decided to abstain.
Microsoft offered its OOXML specification to standards body ECMA last year, paving the way for the file format to be fast-tracked through the International Organisation for Standardisation's approvals process.
If enough other national standards bodies have voted the same way as those of France, India and Brazil, and OOXML is not approved as an international standard, Microsoft could miss out on revenue from the lucrative government market.
A number of governments, worried that the need for access to electronic archives in proprietary formats leaves them hostage to their software vendor, have mandated the use of document formats that comply with open international standards.
Others are considering such a move, which could put Microsoft at a double disadvantage to open source products such as OpenOffice.org, which not only store files in the standardised Open Document Format, but are free.
In the UK, a technical panel comprising large and small companies, public sector organisations, user groups, academia and government, was specially created by the British Standards Institute to review OOXML. It identified "a number of technical issues in the document which need to be addressed" before the UK could give its backing to the International Standard.
And the French Association for Standardisation, Afnor, announced it had informed the International Organisation for Standardisation of its "no" vote on the proposal to make Microsoft's OOXML format an ISO standard.
ISO had asked national standards bodies around the world to give their verdict on OOXML by 2 September, and is in the process of counting the votes submitted. It will announce the result by Wednesday, officials say. Afnor had declined to announce its decision until ISO had received all votes.
Standards Australia, the Australian national standards body, said it had abstained from the vote, after its members failed to reach a consensus.
The Swedish body last week annulled its vote in favour of adoption of the standard when it transpired that a Microsoft employee had pressured partners of the company to vote to support it. The US standards body INCITS, however, has voted in favor of adopting OOXML as a standard.