Will Drupal's open source license protect against patent lawsuits?

Anonymous's picture

Reading the news lately, there is a lot of legal battle over tech patents. For example, Apple and Samsung are fighting over patents to the point of stifling further innovation. In addition, so called "patent trolls" -firms who buy patents in order to make a profit from legal settlements in court- make matters worse.

How does Drupal's open source license protect against such lawsuits?

For example, using the Rules contrib module and some intelligent configuration, you could replicate Facebook/Zuckerberg's "privacy settings technology", which they recently patented. Can Drupal users get sued over using Rules to replicate privacy settings?

I ask this because I am building a price comparison site that will compete with -for example- Google Shopping and TheFind, but built on Drupal. How does Drupal license protect against a lawsuit from Google for infringing their technology?

I'm not talking about front-end design, I'm talking about the Drupal PHP code.

Ok, maybe I'm paranoid, maybe not. I'd like to hear your opinion nonetheless!


GPL2 doesn't

Crell's picture

Drupal is dsistributed under GPL version 2 and later. GPL version 2 is mute on the subject of software patents, because when it was written they didn't exist (or were still in their infancy).

So the answer to your question is, it doesn't do anything either way. Using GPLv2 code does not make you any more or less safe from patent trolls than writing everything custom.

Some open source licenses do have a patent protection clause, specifically Apache 2 and GPL version 3. However, even those only apply to contributors to the project, not to the world at large, and certainly not to patent trolls.

In short, yes, software patents suck, but using open source does not inherently make you any safer. It doens't make you any more at risk either, though, so it's a wash.


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