IP Paranoia

2:24 am PHT

There is this technology company, on the top 200 of both the Fortune Global 500 and the Forbes Global 2000, with revenues in the tens of billions of dollars, that recently decided to ban the use of all software licensed under the Apache License and IBM’s Common Public License.

So far, the company has not banned the GNU General Public License or any other open source license. So, what makes the Apache License and the CPL special? In broad terms, both licenses are similar to the GPL except for the addition of a patent clause. In the shortest possible terms, the clause states that patent claims (owned by contributors) that cover contributions to the software are licensed to the licensees. Furthermore, if a licensee sues the developers because of patent infringement, then the patent license is revoked.

More telling is that this company is one of the top ten annual patent assignees according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patent clause seems to be the reason behind the ban, although the company would not say the actual reason.

Seems to me like a case of excessive IP paranoia.

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