Open Hardware Licensing

  • Contest Winner

    With the launch of the nice site, design licensing has become more obvious to those who design hardware.
    If you decide that you want to license your design, it is important to understand what this means and what (if any) expectations are put on you as licensor (original author of the design) or licensee (user of the license, your own design or someones design you have based your work on).
    I have used the CERN OHL v1.2 license and would like to clarify exactly what you need to consider when using that license. If anyone has experience from other Open Hardware licence models, feel free to add to this thread 🙂
    Also feel free to discuss the CERN license and my interpretation of it.

    The CERN OHL v1.2 license is a permissive license. But it still require the licensor to include certain documents with the hardware design files. These expectations are also put on any licencees.
    CERN provides a howto to it's licenses where the specifics are documented, but I will try to summarize them here as well:
    The licensor/licensee MUST:

    • Provide a copy of the CERN license (LICENSE.TXT or LICENSE.PDF or LICENSE.ODT)
    • Provide a copy of the CERN license howto (cern_ohl_v_1_2_howto.pdf or cern_ohl_v_1_2_howto.odt)
    • Provide a PRODUCT.TXT specifying a contact point where licensees MAY contact the licensor about production and/or distribution of the licensed product if the licensor has indicated a desire to receive this information.
    • Provide a CHANGES.TXT where the licensee specifies what modifications has been made to the original design. The licensor may also use this file to provide a changelog of the design.
    • Provide the following (I personally use COPYRIGHT.TXT for these)
      • a notice that the hardware design documentation is licensed under the
        CERN OHL v.1.2, possibly with a link to where
        the licence texts are hosted:
        • “Licensed under CERN OHL v.1.2 or later”
        • “Licensed under CERN OHL v.1.2”
      • a disclaimer of warranties
      • a Documentation Location if you wish to specify one

    A licensor MAY:

    • Add “Licensed under CERN OHL v.1.2” on top copper layer or silkscreen of PCB

    A licensee MUST:

    • Keep any existing "Licensed under CERN OHL v.1.2” text on PCB that were on the board the licensee bases the new project on.
    • Redistribute the new project under the same license as the original design.
    • Keep and maintain a CHANGES.TXT and keep the other copyright/warranty disclaimer notices

    So to summarize a bit further. The files you need to keep with your board files are:

    • cern_ohl_v_1_2_howto.pdf

    For details on the CERN OHL 1.2 license and its usage, see CERN Open Hardware License 1.2 and CERNs FAQ.

  • Hardware Contributor

    Well written! Makes it much more clear! 👍

  • Yes thank you for this quick guide 🙂

  • Hardware Contributor

    Hi guys, I would like to ask you a question about licensing... What do you think @Hek, @Anticimex about this?

    How to handle when we use/pick things in app notes? Not a whole design of course, but a part and modify it a little bit..
    For instance, I worked on a PIR eval board some times ago. And as lot of people are asking for a low power pir with discrete components (no exotic), I updated my files, mixing some nice infos I found. But the basic schematic part is modified, some component changed too. I don't know well how I should show you the stuff...

    For instance, in some apps notes, ST, TI are the same. But here TI case :

    • Buyers are authorized to use TI reference designs with the TI component(s) identified in each particular reference design and to modify the reference design in the development of their end products. HOWEVER, NO OTHER LICENSE, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, BY ESTOPPEL OR OTHERWISE TO ANY OTHER TI INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHT, AND NO LICENSE TO ANY THIRD PARTY TECHNOLOGY OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHT, IS GRANTED HEREIN, including but not limited to any patent right, copyright, mask work right, or other intellectual property right relating to any combination, machine, or process in which TI components or services are used. Information published by TI regarding third-party products or services does not constitute a license to use such products or services, or a warranty or endorsement thereof. Use of such information may require a license from a third party under the patents or other intellectual property of the third party, or a license from TI under the patents or other intellectual property of TI.
    • Reproduction of significant portions of TI information in TI data books, data sheets or reference designs is permissible only if reproduction is without alteration and is accompanied by all associated warranties, conditions, limitations, and notices. TI is not responsible or liable for such altered documentation. Information of third parties may be subject to additional restrictions.

    What should be the license to use??? I see no alteration too...I never worried about this but that's a question i'm asking myself since a long time..Need to copy their licensing text in my files??

  • Contest Winner

    @scalz i don't see that they require you to put that text in your documentation.
    I also don't see that they have an opinion on you using parts of their design in a product already licensed. From what I can see, they just state that they don't grant any other license.

  • Hardware Contributor

    ok. maybe it was a noob question but I wanted to be sure what I've understood.
    thx for your time 😉

  • Contest Winner

    @scalz oh, I'm no expert 🙂 but I can not see anything forbidding in the text you showed.

  • Hardware Contributor

    Im leaving this here for the future.

    An interesting way/discussion to license and share open source hardware.

    EEVblog #921 - Open Source Hardware Problems Solved! – 11:09
    — EEVblog

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