Open Source Q&A

"4. What are the different types of open source licenses?

At one extreme, some open source projects allow their code to be copied and distributed as part of other applications without any significant restrictions. At the other extreme, some licenses require that source code for derivative works be distributed, and that those derivative works be licensed under the same terms as the original open source code. In some circumstances, if a company includes and distributes such open source software in its proprietary software, the company might be required to distribute source code for at least some of its proprietary software under an open source license. And there are dozens of other license variations in between these two extremes. Just as when companies license commercial software, companies should understand the terms under which open source software is offered...

7. How does open source software affect my intellectual property?

Because software is protected by various intellectual property regimes (e.g., patents, copyrights and trade secrets), use of open source can affect a company’s IP rights in many ways. Companies that distribute proprietary software products should consider whether use of open source in their products would result in a potential loss of copyright or trade secret protection. Some open source licenses also may be interpreted as licenses to any of the company’s patents that cover the distributed code. Some licenses also include a "patent termination" clause that revokes any license to the open source software should a company assert patents against any current licensee of the open source software...

10. How can I safely implement open source into my development process?

As with any new technology or practice, companies can develop procedures that facilitate the identification, review, approval and ongoing compliance with the various license terms and internal guidelines. Typically, this involves scheduling management and developer time to review open source usage before it makes its way into a final product, maintaining a list of approved open source software and the associated licenses, and performing periodic or ongoing audits, possibly using new "code auditing" tools that are available."

Read the other seven questions and answers in this Goodwin Procter article from Mondaq.

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