For Approval: Broad Institute Public License (BIPL)

Russ Nelson nelson at
Thu Jul 13 17:00:48 UTC 2006

NOTE: this is just my opinion.  It is not an official OSI position.

Matthew Seth Flaschen writes:
 > They provided an answer to this, though I don't think it's quite 
 > satisfactory either.  They are concerend that they might accidently 
 > include a patented algorithm in open-source code.  As you say, they 
 > could normally remedy this by licensing all relevant patents in the 
 > open-source license.  However, they fear that they may have agreed to an 
 > *exclusive* license for one of these patents, without knowing it.

If you can infringe a patent without knowing that you're doing it,
then the patent system is broken.  In essence the existing patent
system creates a system of law which is so complicated that nobody can
ever know if they're engaging in lawful or illegal behavior.  Worse,
the current law turns ignorance of the law into a defense.  "I'm an
innocent infringer; I didn't know that thing was patented."  That
completely goes against the rule of law, and turns it into a rule of

MIT can't fix the patent system.  MIT has to solve its problem within
its purview.  I think that MIT needs to tell all its exclusive
licensees "We intend to publish XYZ as open source.  We don't think it
infringes the patent we licensed to you.  You have 30 days to review
this software for infringements.  After that time, we will release it
as open source software."

If MIT doesn't know what patents it owns, or if it doesn't know to
whom it has licensed the patents, or what are the terms of those
patents, then MIT has a bigger problem than just releasing open

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