Subject: Re: [ppc-mobo] Re: GPL-like hardware design license?
From: Mark Shewmaker <>
Date: Tue, 5 Oct 1999 18:00:56 -0400

On Mon, Oct 04, 1999 at 11:34:45AM -0700, Ralph Giles wrote:
> He does make a good point about the difficulty of protecting
> the openness of the design though a copyright on a circuit representation.
> I'd been thinking that would actually be sufficient, combined with a
> copyleft-like license requiring derived works to be protected as well:
> A copylefted schematic would require that any layout generated from that
> schematic also be copylefted, and likewise, distibutors of hardware based
> on a copylefted design would be required to make available the design
> files used in its production.

I agree.  Looking at the IP that could be protected, I don't
see how you could come to any different conclusion, especially
when considering that there are only four types of licensable IP.
(copyrights, patents, trademarks and trade secrets.)

Removing the patent issue for the moment, noting the fact that
trademarks are almost always irrelevant for hardware designs,
and that trade secrets and non-disclosures would naturally be avoided
with this project, it looks to me that the only sort of protectable
intellectual property left would be the copyrightable parts 
of the design (schematics and the layouts), which would be suitable
for putting under the GPL or LGPL, (or something close.)

The issues of infringing implementations of these copyrighted
schematics would seem to me to map directly to the same issues
in the software world--derived works requiring a license,
independently-reimplemented works not requiring ones, and
inherently uncopyrightable portions not requiring a license,
and debate about which is which all around.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see the point at
which the task becomes impossible in theory or in practice.

I consider the problem of how-to-license-copyrightable-parts
largely uncoupled with the problem of how-to-license-the-patents,
(although they can be resolved with a single license in practice.)
The reason I'm responding to Ralph's message with what's essentially
a long "me too" comment is that I've been working on the patent
part of the problem. 

I've been trying to put together a GPL-like patent license.
If anyone's interested in looking at just the patent-like part
of the problem, you might want to look at what I've written
so far at

A few notes:

1.  It's still in the draft stages--the license is very long
    and unwieldy.  Be prepared to fall asleep.
2.  I haven't yet fully gone public with it; I was hoping to talk
    with potential licensors first.
3.  It's a GPL-style, not LGPL-style.  I'm holding off on any LGPL
    additions until the GPL-style part is ironed out.  (OpenPPC
    would probably need an LGPL-style patent license, if Douglas
    Godfrey adapted the Open Hardware Public License to make use
    of something such as this Open Patent License.)

 -Mark Shewmaker