Tuesday, December 13, 2016

OSS License Types (Part 2 of 3) - Corporate Licenses

This second post in the license type series will elaborate on what can be referred to as the corporate license category.
  1. Permissive licenses
  2. Corporate licenses
  3. Reciprocal licenses

We refer to these licenses as "corporate" because they are usually created by companies as a middle ground between permissive/academic licenses and  reciprocal licenses.

Downstream obligations for this category require careful use case analysis but can often be acceptable in a commercial context given proper planning and attention to license restrictions.

Examples include:
  1. Apache - Apache Software Foundation
  2. MPL - Mozilla Public License (Netscape)
  3. CPL - Common Public License (IBM)
  4. EPL - Eclipse Public License (IBM)
  5. CDDL - Common Development and Distribution License (Sun Microsystems)
  6. Microsoft Code Sharing License (Microsoft)

Unlike the other two categories, these licenses show clear signs of professional, attorney led draftsmanship.  As a consequence, many of them address traditional intellectual property concerns one would expect to find in a more formal license agreement.  These express terms are often welcomed by consumers and publishers alike since they directly address issues often left open to interpretation by the other two license groups.  Examples include:
  1. Trademarks, often in the context of promotional use restrictions
  2. Patents, often in the form of a patent peace provision
  3. Warranty disclaimers and limitations of liability
  4. Indemnification provisions
  5. Clear definitions of important terms and concepts
  6. Choice of law provisions
  7. Export restrictions
  8. Integration provisions
From a practical perspective, these licenses tend to take more time to evaluate.  They are more extensive in their terms and more exact in their language.  However, most in-house counsel and their outside counterparts appreciate the clarity these licenses can bring to a potential project.  It is often easier to line up business objectives cleanly without the ambiguity of the simpler academic licenses and the sometimes obtuse language of the principle driven reciprocal options.

Next up, reciprocal license alternatives can be challenging but workable in appropriate circumstances.

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