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From Doug Cutting <cutt...@apache.org>
Subject Re: [PROPOSAL] new license FAQs
Date Mon, 12 Jun 2006 16:53:46 GMT
Jeffrey Thompson wrote:
> Doug Cutting <cutting@apache.org> wrote on 06/09/2006 06:49:35 PM:
>  > Q. I'm paid to contribute to an Apache project.  Does my employer have
>  > to file a CCLA with Apache?
>  >
>  > A. No.  The CCLA lets employers give explicit permission to their
>  > employees to contribute to Apache.  In many cases, employment
>  > relationships (employment agreements, work-for-hire laws, etc.) would
>  > prohibit employees from contributing to Apache.  The CCLA provides a
>  > convenient way for employers to explicitly permit their employees to
>  > contribute, protecting employees from possible misunderstandings with
>  > their employers.
>  >
>  > Employees are free to obtain permission from their employers by means
>  > other than the CCLA if they choose.  Each committer must file an ICLA
>  > with Apache, vouching that they indeed have permission to contribute
>  > their work.
> CCLAs help clarify issues and bring certainty.  Certainty on legal 
> issues is a Good Thing(tm).  So, I think we should be a little more 
> encouraging regarding CCLAs.  While they aren't required, they really 
> are highly recommended.  At least, that's my view.

How would you suggest we make this answer more encouraging?  Should we 
just add something like, "Companies are strongly encouraged to file 
CCLAs for their contributing employees" to the answer?

>  > Q. If my company owns patents, and contributes software that does not
>  > implement those patents, is there any way that our patents might later
>  > be implemented by another contributor and thus be subject to free 
> licensing?
>  >
>  > A.  No.  Patents subject to free licensing are defined at the time of
>  > contribution.  If your contribution completes an implementation of your
>  > patent at the time of contribution, then your patent is subject to free
>  > licensing (even if you acquire your patent later).  But if the
>  > implementation of your patent is not complete until another party
>  > subsequently contributes, that would not cause your patent to become
>  > subject to free licensing.
>  >
> As I mentioned in other notes, I don't think that answer describes the 
> general consensus.  But, in any event, the question and answer don't 
> match up.  The question asks about a patent not implemented by the 
> contribution.  The answer addresses patents that are partially 
> implemented by the contribution.

I think the notion of a "partly implemented" patent is ill-defined.  A 
patent is either implemented or it's not, no?  The intent of the 
question is to cover the cases where the patent is neither implemented 
by the contribution alone nor by the contribution in combination with 
the project at the time of contribution.  I attempted to simplify that 
mouthful.  Did I oversimplify?  Perhaps the question should be restated as:

Q: If my company owns patents, and contributes software to a project, 
and, immediately after our contributions, the project does not implement 
our patents, is there any way that our patents might later be 
implemented by another contributor and thus be subject to free licensing?

Is that a better match to the answer above?

> The answer to the question as posed 
> would be more like:
> A.  No.  The patents that are licensed include only those that are 
> infringed by the contributions by themselves or by the contributions in 
> combination with the remainder of the code in the project -- that is, 
> the contributions form part of the implementation of the patent and the 
> remainder of the code includes the rest of the implementation.  If the 
> implementation of the patent doesn't involve the contributions at all, 
> the patent is not licensed even if it is part of the same project.  

But that avoids the tricky question of patents that involve the 
contribution but which are not implemented in the project until others 
make subsequent contributions.  That's the case that's causing confusion 
and that needs clarification.


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