Request for Comment - OCP Hardware License Agreement

As announced at Summit V, OCP is now adding new hardware licensing option for our contributors.

As I mentioned in my earlier blog post, you, the community, would be given the opportunity to review this new license and give us feedback.

Below is our rationale behind the decision to create this new license:

Open hardware licensing, unlike open source software licensing, is still an emerging licensing paradigm. The goal of keeping hardware free to use is a challenging one. This document will not discuss all the additional challenges of moving from the software to the hardware context.

But there are a few differences we needed to consider:

  • The intellectual property rights related to specifications are not the same as those relating to implementations of specifications. In open source software licensing, the software serves both as the specification and the implementation, and the primary intellectual property involved is copyright. In open hardware licensing, copyright is of limited importance. The functional ideas in a specification are not governed by copyright.
  • The materials necessary to enable licensees to practice a specification are particular to a technology field. For software, it is easier to define what is necessary to modify the software. In other words, what is the “source” needed to make “open source” hardware?
  • Contributors to open hardware specifications need certainty about the scope of patent  licenses they are expected to grant. No matter how you feel about patents, one thing is sure: if companies cannot understand the patent rights they are giving up by making a contribution, they will be less likely to contribute.


The full rationale document covers the following and can be read at:

  • Clear Scope for Patent Grants
  • Patent Licenses as the Fundamental Intellectual Property Basis for Copyleft Obligations
  • Application to Our Technology Space
  • Downstream Contributions
  • Scope Defined by Distributed Products
  • Defensive Termination
  • Reasonable Notice Requirements
  • Scope of Improvements


Contributors will now get to choose between two OCP hardware license agreements.

The Open Compute Project Hardware License (Restrictive) - A GPL like license which would require anyone building on top of your contribution to share and open up their spec and design.

TheOpen Compute Project Hardware License (Permissive) - An Apache 2 like license which would allow users to use your contribution and not give their spec and design back.a

From now until March 6th we are opening up the license for review and comment by the community. You can give us feedback, ask questions or leave comments by clicking here.

These are exciting times as the OCP Foundation and community come together to give hardware contributors more options to share and open their designs and specs as we further progress the innovation in the data center and hardware ecosystems.