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From Sam Ruby <ru...@intertwingly.net>
Subject Re: Proposal: Disclosure of patents by Apache projects
Date Wed, 03 Jun 2015 14:10:35 GMT
On Wed, Jun 3, 2015 at 9:38 AM, William A Rowe Jr <wrowe@rowe-clan.net> wrote:
> On Wed, Jun 3, 2015 at 7:59 AM, Shane Curcuru <asf@shanecurcuru.org> wrote:
>>
>> On 6/3/15 8:44 AM, Geir Magnusson Jr. wrote:
>> > But what's the point of any of this?  There's no reason to require
>> > Sneaky Author to enumerate anything because via contribution via the AL,
>> > they have granted a license to anything they have necessarily infringed by
>> > the contribution (or combined contribution and existing work)
>> >
>> > And I as the recipient don't really care - I know that via the patent
>> > grant in the AL, Sneaky Author can't come after me for any patents they hold
>> > (enumerated or not) that read on the work they contributed to.
>> >
>> > Is there a real problem we're trying to solve?
>>
>> I'm not aware of any Apache project asking this question, no.  It seems
>> Bill might have a case related to this thread, which we can address when
>> it comes up.
>
>
> Indeed, there is no sneaky author.  The patents are public filings.  No
> need for tinfoil hats or detection gadgets.  Those patent use rights are
> granted, by the very design of the AL, to every downstream consumer.
>
> Apparently, none of you spend too much time with your corp-consumer
> legal teams.  It's brutal.
>
> Pretty much everything out there, IP-wise, bollixes the works.  Stray
> non-conforming license?  That's out.  Stray patent claim?  Straight out.
>
> So yes, there is a project which is trying to offer code-with-patent-license
> to the ASF, and has succeeded at their CCLA plus CLAs and would like
> to wokr out the best way to inform / reassure users that these particular
> patent claims are known to apply and are granted for use to whatever
> downstream consumer wants to use the code.
>
> Is this really so difficult?

I encourage you to follow your own advice: there is no reason for this
type of antagonistic responses.

I will note that this thread has evolved considerably from an initial
post which called into question Roy's advice:

> We do not notify
> our users that an unspecified patent might possibly be owned by some
> third-party based on a theoretical reading of a patent license on a
> specification that we don't even implement.

Here you are describing a case where a patent holder is trying to do
the right thing.  This is quite a different matter than third parties
wanting us to endorse their assertions, something the ASF has
consistently declined to do.

We also don't publicly disclose who has signed CCLAs or SG.  In this
case, it appears to be the signer's wish to disclose that information.
The PPMC and IPMC should take a position on that request.

That being said, patents are complex beasts.  A patent may require n
conditions, and the code that the contributor has donated may only
read on n-1.  An evaluation of the risk is in order.

This also is a rare enough case that I don't think that we have
reached a point where a best practice is obvious.  Perhaps a blog post
or a page on the PPMCs site may be a good first step.

Opening a JIRA, drafting some text, and asking for a legal review of
that text would be in order.

- Sam Ruby

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