The wikipedia page doesn't give much information on the page. It seems to be only generated by garmin devices but there are numerous open source libraries that can process this file format.

Are there any restrictions on the TCX file format preventing anyone from creating their own devices

1 Answer 1


File formats and protocols are typically not IP-protected. You are generally free to reverse-engineer them. Reverse-engineering for the purpose of compatibility might even be explicitly allowed by your local copyright laws. However:

  • You might only have access to these files under a contract that forbids reverse-engineering.
  • Specific software to read or write these files is subject to copyright.
  • Techniques necessary to read or write these files may be patented.

As an example, consider the legal history of GIFs. GIFs (or more precisely, software that processed GIFs) used the patented LZW compression algorithm and could therefore not be used freely until the patents expired around 2003–2004. This lead to alternative file formats like PNG being created.

In the case of TCX files, this seems to be intended as a data interchange format. The XML schemas are freely available, no reverse-engineering is necessary. Garmin does not seem to try to restrict the use of this format – and even if they wanted to, I doubt they could.

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