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From Patrick Andrews <patr...@riversimple.com>
Subject use of Apache license for non-software purposes
Date Mon, 13 Oct 2008 21:27:33 GMT

At the risk of asking a silly question....

I am working on a hardware project in the automotive industry. The small 
company I work for is committed to an open source approach to the 
development and plan in the next few months to donate all our initial 
design schematics to a newly-created foundation which will make them 
available on the internet. The foundation will invite contributors to 
help us improve the product (a hydrogen fuel cell-powered car).

I am trying to get my head around the licensing issues. As I understand 
it, it would not work if our foundation simply adopts a software license 
such as the GPL or the Apache license, since these are focused mainly at 
copyright protection and copyright will not protect the ideas 
represented in the schematics, making our license effectively 
unenforceable. They would be unenforceable because someone can simply 
look at our schematics and, once they've understood the idea 
represented, they can make their own schematics and ignore the terms of 
the license. We can forbid this under our license but proving a breach 
will be tricky.

We are wondering whether the foundation should instead focus on 
registering and licensing patents. Another alternative (or supporting 
strategy) might be trademark protection - but this is only effective if 
the trademark becomes one of value (of course we hope it will become 
one...)  Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Would the Apache license 
nevertheless be a reasonable starting point when approaching this?


Patrick Andrews

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