What is an Open Product Licence?

The Open Product licence gives the licensee (the person using the products) the right to use the products in their entirety, and everything that entails: designs, instructions, rights to manufacture and rights to distribute, freely. It enables a whole product to be licensed to the community; not just the drawings or illustrations of the design – which would be covered by a Creative Commons licence if you wanted to apply one – but also other intellectual property rights that you hold, such as registered or unregistered design rights and patents. The Open Product Licence has been developed to cover the different intellectual property rights that encompass a product that lives both virtually (in a computer file or on a sheet of paper) and really (in production and use). This hasn’t been done before, in the context of product design and manufacturing. The closest equivalent is CERN’s Open Hardware Licence, from which the Open Product Licence draws much of its structure and function.

How can I apply a licence to a product I have designed?

You can choose from a suite of differing Open Product Licence versions, depending on your preferences. After you have researched and chosen your preferred version, you simply upload the documentation (technical drawings, CAD models, illustrations, instructions, images, whatever you can supply to define the product) and give the product a unique name. The files are linked to the product name and the license version you have selected: the Open Product Licence platform generates simple ways to link all these pieces of information together – and to link them to manufactured products based on the documentation. The licence platform uses unique reference numbers and applies these to QR tags which you can apply to or embed in the surface of the product. Right now the QR tags are generated manually on request and uploaded to your Registry entry; we’re building an automated system to manage this. Soon there will be other ways to network this meta-data, like RFID tags. Our goal is to make this simple and inexpensive.

What happens if someone breaks the terms of my Open Product Licence?

The Public Domain version of the Open Product license has no terms which can be broken: in fact it is a dedication which you would offer in order to surrender your intellectual property rights to the community without reservation. The point of the by-attribution Open Product Licence is that you do retain rights, but you give the community (everyone else) a license to exploit those rights under the terms you choose to set (e.g. non commercial use only, or no derivatives). So, if you become aware that someone is using your product in a way that’s counter to the rights you have retained, and you really do possess those rights and you can demonstrate it, then you have exactly the same recourse to legal protection as in any other licence dispute.  In the case of the Open Product Licences, the different licence versions are all governed by the law of England and Wales. If you have any concerns about using these licenses or the potential consequences of sharing your products, then don’t use them: there are plenty of different approaches to protecting your work privately, and we would encourage you to explore these.

What is the Open Product Registry?

The Registry is a database of information uploaded by uers, connected with product names, descriptions and licences. When you create an Open Product Licence, you are invited to add as much information as you want – in certain common file formats – which can be downloaded by other users as long as they accept the terms of the licence. The registry is searchable and it allows users to see how products assemble or fork into more products. Finally, the registry is networked with physical products by unique links attached to manufactured objects, through QR tags and, eventually, RFID tags which refer back to the registry entry for a particular product.

Who manages the Open Product Licences and Registry?

The Open Product Licences and Registry are managed and maintained by Stromatolite in London, UK. The user-contributed information on the Open Poduct site is kept in confidence and is not available to any third pary except through the function of the site itself.

What’s the difference between an Open Product Licence and a Creative Commons License?

Creative Commons licences govern the use of copyrighted material. Not all the information about a design or product is governed by copyright agreements: for example, design rights and copyrights are different things; and patents are different again. The aim of the Open Product Licence is to offer an added option, on top of Creative Commons licenses, which can be used to limit the use of original work in the manufacture and distribution of finished products fro designs and copyrighted materials like drawings, illustrations and CAD data.

What’s the difference between an Open Product Licence and an Open Hardware Licence?

The Open Hardware Licence (OHL), developed by CERN in Switzerland, is a breakthrough in the system of commons-based licences because it goes beyond Creative Commons or GPL (for copyright material and computer code respectively) to govern the right to produce an entire technology hardware system, apart from proprietary rights residing in chips, connectors and other standard parts. So the OPHL can allow a hardware developer to share their work with the community and to allow the production of hardware to their specification. The chief difference between the OHL and Open Product Licence (OPL) is that the OPL is written to cover products in general rather than technology hardware in particular. In fact we would recommend you stick with the OHL if your work is related specifically to technology hardware. The OPL could cover any product you have developed.

How do I modify or fork a product design and license the new version?

When you go to register a new product, you’ll be asked to identify any products also licensed, which are registered under the Open Product Licence and referenced in the Open Product Registry. You can add notes to explain the differences or compatible uses of your products and the original works. If the original licence restricts certain uses, such as noncommercial or share-alike, your license will inherit those restrictions, and if the original licence stipulates no derivatives, you’ll be prevented from creating a derivative work in this system but enabled to link the products together if they are intended for use together. The Registry will record the connections and allow users to research the taxonomy of these connections between registered products.

Can I revoke an Open Product Licence?

No. Once you have given your rights to the community, they are irrevocable.

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