Proposed new OSD item - patent termination

Matthew Garrett mjg59 at
Sat Apr 9 16:35:18 UTC 2005

On Sat, 2005-04-09 at 08:13 -0700, Bruce Perens wrote:

> Think of it as a quid-pro-quo with items of value exchanged on both 
> sides.  You refrain from asserting patent rights against them in 
> exchange for the right to use, distribute, and modify some valuable 
> software. If you aren't interested in taking part in an exchange of 
> patent and copyright rights with them, nobody is forcing you to do so.

Sure. I understand the principle. However, that argument applies equally
to other cases - think of a hypothetical license that grants you
permission to use, modify and distribute the licensed software in return
for you granting the same permissions to the copyright holder on every
piece of software you've ever written. It's an exchange of items of
value, and you're not forced to accept it. I'd hope it's not something
we'd think would be an acceptable open source license, though.

Some exchanges are acceptable. Some are not. I believe the one present
in the APSL falls into the latter category.

> Now, say you were dealing with a business entity that refused to grant a 
> commercial license, rather than Apple. You might really lose some 
> copyright rights irrevocably in that case. And that is one of the costs 
> that you must consider before bringing suit.

Again, this argument applies to other cases that we'd consider
unacceptable. Imagine a hypothetical license that terminates if you
write a critical review of any of the company's other products. You'd
still be able to write that review, but the cost to you may be large.
How about a license that terminates if you file an unfair dismissal
lawsuit against the copyright holder? 

Software patents are a real problem, and it's not unreasonable for
licenses to attempt to protect the licensor from software-related patent
suits. However, I don't think there's any great consensus that patents
in general are a bad thing. Why should an open source *software* license
attempt to restrict what I can do with the non-software patents I hold? 
Matthew Garrett | mjg59 at

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