Towards an Open Hardware license for Marine Technologies


Today I met with Andrew Katz, Intellectual property lawyer from the UK and notorious in the Open Hardware world.
Open-H2O is a community that “develops open technologies to explore and protect the oceans”, so naturally, as any technology generating organisation we need to define the terms, conditions and limitations attached to the technology we document and publish. We found that no existing license was covering our needs so I (Cesar Harada) have been working since 2010 (Open Hardware Summit where the Open Hardware License 1.0 was collectively edited) to refine the type of license that would allow us to work best together.  This will be version 1.0, when Open-H2O, Protei or anyone interested in making this license progress are ready to invest time, money or put work into this, we will develop it further versions. The other idea is also to contribute to the Open Hardware movement and community, proposing improvements and testing them. The functions of this new license would be multiple :

  • allow inventors, scientist, engineers, makers, to develop open technologies, making sure these technologies remain permanently open for environmental and social good, for commercial and non-commercial applications without royalties, commission or fixed / incremental license fee.
  • make sure that the author remains the author once licensed (correctly credited), but the technology becomes officially available to the world (documentation shared with the technology licensee = the community = Open-H2O website).
  • protect technology generated by the Open-H2O from potential legal attacks, fraud or abuse of the technology by other groups.
  • a common license to act as a currency, or common asset to both non-profit Open-H2O and corporation Protei INC to trade services and information. The license would then attract similar open technologies for the ocean and grow this community.

These are notes from our meeting to the address of the Open_H2O community scrutiny, before the next phase which will be to feedback on the draft of this licence Jan 4th 2013. If you want to have an input on the Open-H2O license, please do comment below before Jan 4th 2013.

The main amendments we have talked about so far are :

a. Extending the license from the DOCUMENTATION towards covering more of the TECHNOLOGY (overlapping with patent function). Regardless, the required documentation that comes with the technology needs to be listed. Documentation is key.

b. Exclusion of liability : specific to maritime use (location and legislation of international waters, underwater).

c. Trademark use : “this license does not grant use of a trademark policy” or such simple article should suffice – we would have a separate trademark policy. Practically that means that everyone can use the TECHNOLOGY but we can decide what is NAMED “Protei” (trademark). For instance drug dealers, or military may use the technology, we cannot oppose that use, but we want to be able to forbid them use our name with it. Having a control on the trademark can also allow us to control the allocation of serial numbers to technology versions and individual machines ie : Protei_010_00045 (Protei technology version 10, machine number 45) or Protei_20121218a (Protei machine completed the Dec 18th of 2012, defining state of the art).

d. ShareAlike : Anyone using the technology or documentation needs to license the work using our license Open Hardware H2O.

e. Ability to update the license : “GPL 2.0 or later” to allow users to have their license stay up to date, and permit administrator to improve the document without having to make user sign every time the changes in the terms and conditions.

I am already adding these suggestion for his consideration :

f. Environmental Clause : in case of loss of technological equipment at sea, the users / operators of the machines are fully responsible. Same if the machine is no longer consider a machine but marine litter, users / operators are still responsible of disposal / recycling.

g. Registered license : We love the model of Creative Commons license in which anyone can CHOOSE a license from the different options straight from the website. We want our license to be as easy to access, but we want them to be able to fill a similarly simple form, that we keep a record of. This way Open-H2O builds a REGISTRY of who is using the Open Hardware H2O license, the community grows, and we can more effectively protect them as they are also registered on our end, with a date, description and required documentation. This doesn’t have to be in the license, but can make the license a lot more effective in the case of litigation, Open-H2O supporting the licensee a little bit like the patent office would.

I am very looking forward form comments and feedback before Jan 4th.

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