Open Source Practice

Open Source Practice

Based in Silicon Valley and having significant market share of software company clients, Fenwick & West was one of the first law firms in the world to confront Open Source issues. Nearly two decades later, our attorneys now have vast experience in guiding clients of all sizes—from Open Source start-ups to Fortune 500 companies—on navigating the complex issues of Open Source and IP ownership.

Our effective guidance on Open Source stems beyond our legal expertise; it is deeply informed by our attorneys' technical backgrounds and active involvement in the Open Source community. Many of our attorneys have programming and engineering backgrounds, including direct Open Source programming experience. This deep technical knowledge is often a key requirement for effective counseling on the more complicated Open Source issues, because our attorneys fully understand the Open Source components being used and how they relate to other software/firmware components in the system being analyzed.

In addition, Fenwick attorneys have contributed comments to the various GPL versions, including significant contributions to the current version, GPLv3, released in June 2007. Therefore, we are fully versed in the nuances of complying with the GPL, as well as how to create IP value while still incorporating Open Source solutions into company products.

Our wide range of Open Source expertise includes:

  • More than 40 attorneys with computer science, computer engineering and electrical engineering degrees, a number with direct programming experience involving Open Source code and on Open Source projects such as threading libraries and the GNU Standard C++ Library
  • Deep knowledge of the different Open Source licensing regimes, including weekly (if not daily) counseling on compliance with Open Source license requirements
  • Negotiating Open Source issues as part of in-bound and out-bound technology transactions for clients of all sizes
  • Patent prosecution for clients whose primary products and services are Open Source related, as well as patent prosecution for large companies whose products may incorporate Open Source elements
  • Avoiding "taint" of proprietary software by Open Source
  • Developing Open Source policies for leading technology companies, including decision tree models to determine risk/benefit analysis of incorporating Open Source into company products and, when incorporated, the most appropriate licensing regime
  • Handling Open Source issues on literally hundreds of M&A transactions: Fenwick attorneys have developed a proprietary Open Source Due Diligence Questionnaire that allows us to efficiently identify, analyze and resolve Open Source issues without delay to the transaction, as well as to assist with management of Open Source issues during post-closing integration