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From Marvin Humphrey <mar...@rectangular.com>
Subject Re: Serious problem with the Apache Contributor's License Agreement (CLA) v2.0
Date Sun, 15 Sep 2013 01:56:01 GMT
On Sat, Sep 14, 2013 at 4:38 PM, Tao Effect <contact@taoeffect.com> wrote:

> I recently finished a rather long exchange with Numenta, Inc. on a matter
> related to a paragraph taken from the Apache CLA v2.0.

For what it's worth, similar language exists in the Apache License 2.0.

> [..] it appears to allow an interpretation that states that I’m potentially
> giving away royalty-free licenses to all the software patent claims I ever
> make should I make a single contribution to NuPIC, whatever it may be.

If I understand correctly, your concern is that once you've made a single
contribution under an iCLA (or the ALv2), a malevolent party might contribute
something to the same "Work" at some point in the future which infringes
against an unrelated patent of yours, unfairly wresting a patent license from
you.

For example:

*   An employee of Apple contributes some documentation to Dr. X's open-source
    cryptography library.
*   Dr. X subsequently adds a GUI to his cryptography library which utilizes
    "slide to unlock".
*   Dr. X has obtained a patent license from Apple for "slide to unlock".

Does that illustrate your concern accurately?  If so, I believe that this FAQ
entry is relevant:

    http://www.apache.org/foundation/license-faq.html#PatentScope

    [...]

    The only patent claims that are licensed to the ASF are those you own or
    have the right to license that read on your contribution or on the
    combination of your contribution with the specific Apache product to which
    you contributed as it existed at the time of your contribution. No
    additional patent claims become licensed as a result of subsequent
    combinations of your contribution with any other software. Note, however,
    that licensable patent claims include those that you acquire in the
    future, as long as they read on your original contribution as made at the
    original time. [...]

> Numenta discussed the matter with their legal team and decided to add a few
> words to eliminate the dangerous interpretation. They announced this via a
> blog post:
>
> http://numenta.org/blog/2013/09/03/numenta-contributor-license-v1-1.html

IANAL, but my understanding is that that provision is there to guard against
submarine patents.  I'd be curious whether the change described in that blog
post weakens protections against contributors sneaking in technology for which
patents subsequently "surface" and for which royalties are demanded from end
users.

Marvin Humphrey

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