Open Source

Open Source

Open source is one of the most misunderstood, but yet important, developments in the technology world in recent years.  While sometimes presenting unique intellectual property and other issues, open source development and distribution model has developed into a material portion of the software industry and a valuable source of free or low cost software for everyone from start up companies to Fortune 500 global enterprises. 

Hunton & Williams LLP is uniquely experienced in issues surrounding open source software and "open" models of software distribution and development. Lawyers at our firm have a long history of deep immersion in the open source industry and legal issues arising from open source. These lawyers have advised three of the largest five proprietary software companies in the world on open source related issues, participated in the SCO litigation, advised several of the largest users of open source software in the world and several of the most successful open source software companies. We have also advised start up open source projects, both in formation of the project and development of their open source intellectual property strategies. A true sweet spot of our practice is advising large corporate users of open source software regarding its impact on their software development, use and distribution practices and their intellectual property portfolio. We also routinely work with the major participants in the global open source community, providing unique insight to our clients regarding the latest developments in the open source world. We were active participants in the GPL 3.0 revision process on behalf of a number of large corporate users of open source software.

Our services in the open source arena include the following, among others:

  • Advice regarding structuring, implementing and managing open source use policies in corporate “mixed use” environments
  • A wide range of intellectual property advice arising out of open source initiatives, including extensive work assessing and managing the impact of use of open source software on patent portfolios
  • Advice regarding the tactical use and deployment of specific open source software distributed under a multitude of open source licenses
  • Advice regarding the strategic contribution of intellectual property from Fortune 500 companies to open source software projects and participation in those projects on a continuing basis
  • Due diligence in relevant mergers and acquisition activities and advice regarding the impact of these activities on an open source portfolio
  • Formation of open source projects, including all aspects of identifying and establishing the appropriate corporate entity, investments in that entity, development of licensing and ownership structures, including contribution, license and employment agreements
  • Litigation regarding patent, copyright and other issues, including participation in several of the most high profile open source related cases filed to date