Free and Open Source Software Licensing: and the Mystery of Licensor's Patents

Anna Haapanen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph

Abstract

The study concerns overlapping intellectual property rights patents and copyrights in computer programs under the US and EU law including the national laws of Finland. The focus of the study is the less frequently studied subject of patents in context of free and open source software (FOSS) licensing and specifically, exhaustion of patents and grant of implied patent licenses in context of FOSS. The main research questions are: What is the exposure to FOSS licensor's patent portfolio based on sale, licensing and/or mere distribution of FOSS? What forms of FOSS licensing may trigger exhaustion of patent rights in computer programs under statutory and/or case law of the US and EU? In what circumstances may FOSS licensing trigger implied patent rights under the US or EU law (mainly laws of Finland in Nordic context) even in the absence of express grant of patent rights in the FOSS (copyright) licenses subject to the study. In order to understand exhaustion of software patents and grant of implied patent licenses, also copyright exhaustion and express copyright licensing as well as related contract theories are examined in FOSS context. In addition to copyright law, also contract law is used as a tool in the study despite that the main research questions concern patent law. The results of the study include that FOSS licensing may constitute sale of software triggering exhaustion of patents in copies of FOSS program. Further, FOSS licensing may trigger, based on the totality of the circumstances, an implied patent license despite that the FOSS licenses subject to the study do not include express patent license grants. Finally, despite the differences in the legal doctrines and concepts of the US and EU law, the exposure to FOSS licensor's patent portfolio based on patent exhaustion or implied patent license may be similar in the different jurisdictions subject to the study.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Helsinki
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Oesch, Rainer, Supervisor
Award date1 Apr 2017
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Publisher
Print ISBNs978-951-51-3046-4
Electronic ISBNs978-951-51-3053-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)

Fields of Science

  • 513 Law

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