non-aggression pacts for patents and the GPL

Arnoud Engelfriet galactus at
Tue Nov 25 15:49:50 UTC 2003

will at wrote:
> That said, what would any of you make of what lawyers call reciprocal
> non-assertion pacts? That is, would it be a good thing if Company X let
> anyone use its patented, open-source technology on a royalty-free basis
> _as long as_ that person or group agreed not to sue Company X for patent
> infringement?

This type of broad non-assert clause is popping up more and more
often in (proposed) open source licenses. The new Apache Software
License ( also has such
a clause (section 5).

In a message from its general counsel, the FSF noted that this
clause is incompatible with the GPL and is not "appropriate" for
free software licenses:

For this and other reasons, FSF believes that broad automatic
termination provisions like that contained in the first sentence of
section 5 are fraught with potentially serious unintended
consequences, and are not an appropriate vehicle for protecting the
freedom of free software against the serious threat posed by software
patent litigation.  We would urge that the first sentence of section 5
be removed.


Arnoud Engelfriet, Dutch patent attorney - Speaking only for myself
Patents, copyright and IPR explained for techies:
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