[License-discuss] The ambiguous scope of the Apache License 2.0 patent grant

ygrex908 ygrex908 at proton.me
Thu Feb 9 21:10:36 UTC 2023

I think it's fair to say that patent grants in open-source licenses can
be roughly divided into two groups:

- narrowly-scoped (i.e. applies just to the contributed code, examples:
  EPL, BSD+Patent)

- widely-scoped (applies to the whole program as it existed at the time
  of the contibution, examples: GPLv3, UPL)

In which group does the Apache License 2.0 fall? To me, it seems that
the wording of its patent grant is ambiguous:

"where such license applies only to those patent claims licensable by
such Contributor that are necessarily infringed by their Contribution(s)
alone or by combination of their Contribution(s) with the Work to which
such Contribution(s) was submitted"

"Combination" could mean either "the act of combining" (that would put
it in the "narrow" group) or "something formed by combining" (that would
imply the "wide" scope).

The FAQ[1] doesn't help because it uses the same wording.

Curiously, it seems that the licenses created after APLv2 was published
tend to use much more explicit wording. Could it mean that their authors
have also noticed that issue?

[1] - https://www.apache.org/foundation/license-faq.html

More information about the License-discuss mailing list