New CERN Open Source Hardware Licenses Mark A Major Step Forward

Earlier this month CERN (yes, that CERN) announced version 2.0 of their open hardware licenses (announcement and additional context from them). Version 2.0 of the license comes in three flavors of permissiveness and marks a major step forward in open source hardware (OSHW) licensing. It is the result of seven (!) years of work by a team lead by Myriam Ayass, Andrew Katz, and Javier Serrano. Before getting to what these licenses are doing, this post will provide some background on why open source hardware licensing is so complicated in the first place.

While the world of open source software licensing is full of passionate disputes, everyone more or less agrees on one basic point: software is fully protected by copyright. Software is ‘born closed’ because the moment it is written it is automatically protected by copyright. If the creator of that software wants to share it with others, she needs to affirmatively give others permission to build on it. In doing so she can be confident that her license covers 100% of the software.

At least at an abstract level, that makes open source software licenses fairly binary: either there is no license or there is a license that covers everything.

Things are not as clean in open source hardware. Hardware includes software (sometimes). It also includes actual hardware, along with documentation that is distinct from both. Hardware’s software is protected by copyright. The hardware itself could be protected by an idiosyncratic mix of rights (more on that in a second) that include copyright, patent, and even trademark. The result of this is, at a minimum, an OSHW license needs to be aware of the fact that there may be many moving intellectual property pieces connected to a single piece of hardware – a fairly stark contrast to open source software’s ‘everything covered by copyright’ situation.

OSHW Licenses are Hard 2: Coverage is Hard to Generalize

The (at least superficially) straightforward relationship between software and copyright makes it easy to give generalized advice about licensing and to develop licenses that are useful in a broad range of situations. A lawyer can be fairly confident that the advice “you need a copyright license” is correct for any software package even without having to look at the software itself. That, in turn, means it is safe for non-lawyers to adopt “I need a copyright license for my software” as a rule of thumb, confident that it will be correct in the vast majority of cases. It also means that software developers can be confident that the obligations they impose on downstream users – like an obligation to share any contributions to the software – are legally enforceable.

As suggested above, hardware can be much more idiosyncratic. The physical elements of hardware might be protected by copyright – in whole or in part – or they might not. That means that the hardware might be born closed like software, or it might be born open, free of automatic copyright protection, and available for sharing without the need for a license. The flip side of this ambiguity is that a creator may be able to enforce obligations on future users (such as the classic copyleft sharing obligations) for some hardware, but not for other hardware. Expectations misalignment with regards to these kinds of obligations can create problems for creators and users alike.

All of this means that it can be hard to create a reliable software-style licensing rule of thumb for OSHW creators. Many OSHW creators end up following the practices of projects that went before them and hoping for the best. In fact, this ‘follow others’ model is the premise for the educational guidance that the OSHWA makes available.

OSHWA’s Approach

One of the many questions all of this sets up is a bundling vs breakout approach to licensing. Is it better to try and create an omni-license that covers the IP related to software, hardware, and documentation for OSHW, or to suggest users pick three licenses – one for software, one for hardware, and one for documentation? A creator could make very different choices about sharing the three elements, so the omni approach could get complicated fast. At the same time, having three distinct licenses is a lot more complicated than just having one.

OSHWA ultimately decided to go with the three license approach in our certification program. This was driven in part by the realization that there were already mature licenses for software (OSI-approved open source software licenses) and documentation (Creative Commons licenses). That allowed OSHWA to take a “don’t do anything new if you can avoid it” approach to licensing education. It also required us to recommend licenses for hardware.

Existing OSHW Licenses

While many open source hardware creators use software (such as the GPL) or documentation (Creative Commons) licenses for hardware, neither of those licenses were really written with hardware in mind. Fortunately, there were three existing hardware licenses. OSHWA provided a quick comparison between the three licenses: CERN 1.2, Solderpad, and TAPR. Although all of these licenses were good first steps, they were all developed fairly early in the history of open source hardware. Solderpad and TAPR in particular were essentially designed to add hardware wrappers to existing open source software licenses.

CERN 2.0

CERN’s 2.0 licenses have been informed by all of the developments and thinking around open source hardware and licensing in the seven years between the release of 1.2 and today. In recognition that creators may be interested in multiple types of openness and obligations on downstream users, they come in the flavors: the strongly reciprocal S variant, the weakly reciprocal W variant, and the permissive P variant. While this structure makes it hard to mix reciprocities (by, for example, requiring strong reciprocity on documentation and weak reciprocity on the hardware itself), they provide a clear way for hardware creators to license the hardware portion of their projects. This is a deeply reasonable approach.

CERN’s ‘Available Components’

One evergreen question for open source hardware is ‘open down to what?’ Your design may be open, but does that mean that all of your components have to be open as well? Did you have to use open source software to create the design? Running on an open source operating system? Running on open source silicon?

OSHWA’s certification program addressed this question with the concept of the ‘creator contribution.’ The idea is that the creator must make available and openly license everything within her power to make available and open. Generally those will be her designs, code, and documentation. It is fine to include components sourced from third parties (even non-open components) as long as they are generally available without requiring an NDA to access.

CERN’s ‘available component’ definition achieves much the same goal. As long as a component is generally and readily available, and described with enough information to understand their interfaces, they do not themselves have to be open. Of course, both the contours of the creator contribution and available component may vary from hardware to hardware. Hopefully time and experience will help give us all a better sense of how to draw the lines.

Let’s See How it Goes

This post has mostly focused on the CERN license’s role in helping making ‘born closed’ components more open through licensing. There is a flip side to all of this: what happens when a license is used on a ‘born open’ piece of hardware. That can give both users and creators a distorted sense of their obligations when using a piece of hardware. However, that is probably a problem for public education, not license design.

This is an exciting time for open source hardware. CERN’s new license is a big step forward in licensing. As it is adopted and used we will learn what works, what doesn’t, and what tweaks might be helpful. The best way to do that is to use it yourself and see how it fits.

How We Made the Open Hardware Summit All Virtual in Less Than a Week

Screenshot from a panel discussion

First, thank you again to everyone – speakers, participants, and sponsors – for a fantastic 10th anniversary Open Hardware Summit.  We knew the 10th anniversary Summit would be one for the ages, although we didn’t quite expect it to be because it became the first virtual Summit. 

Thanks to the timing of the Summit, the 10th anniversary Summit ended up being many people’s first virtual summit of the Covid-19 era (that includes the organizers).  Unfortunately it looks like it is unlikely to be the last. In the hopes of helping event organizers struggling with the same challenges, this blog post outlines the decisions we made and the steps we took to make it happen.

Quick Context

The Open Hardware Summit is an annual gathering of the open source hardware community held by the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA).  This year OSHWA partnered with the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy at NYU Law to host the event in New York City.  The event usually brings together hundreds of community members and speakers from around the world.  It was scheduled for March 13, 2020.

While the situation has been evolving for some time, as recently as March 5th (8 days before the Summit) we thought that holding a reduced in-person version of the event was the right decision.  By March 8 (5 days before the Summit) that was no longer tenable and we announced that the Summit was going all virtual.  That was the right decision, but what does going all virtual mean?

Priorities

We had two major priorities for the virtual Summit:

  1. Online streaming video of all of the speakers and panels.
  2. A community space for discussions and coming together.

Video

The live stream of the Summit had to be both accessible to our viewers and easy to join for our speakers and panelists.  After considering some options and consulting with experts in our community (huge thank you to Phil Torrone at Adafruit for the guidance), we concluded that a combination of YouTube and StreamYard would be the best option.

YouTube worked for our community because it is easily accessible on a wide range of platforms in most of the world.  That meant that just about everyone would be able to see the Summit from wherever they were.

StreamYard made it easy to manage the backend.  Speakers could join a virtual green room before their talk and our technical testing the day before the Summit made it clear that it was easy for them to share their slide presentations as well.  One of the members of the Summit team was able to easily add and remove people (and their screens) to the live feed, along with stills and slides for introductions, sponsors, and everything else.

Community Space

We also looked at a number of options for online discussions.  We decided that a discord server would be the best option for the open source hardware community. Discord allowed us to open the space to anyone who wanted to join, while at the same time giving us moderation control over the discussion (huge thank you for Lenore Edman from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories for jumping in as a moderator).  Many community members were already comfortable with discord, which was also a bonus.

We also decided to use discord for a version of Q&A for the speakers.  One option would have been to try and integrate video questions from the audience into the live stream. That would have been technically possible with StreamYard (probably…), but it seemed like an unnecessary logistical complication for the organizers.  As an alternative we decided to set up separate discord channels for each of the speakers. That allowed the speakers to end their talk and move to their discord channel for further discussions.

One unexpected and welcome development was that the discord server grew into a larger community hub, with channels devoted to solutions to Covid-19, community announcements, hacking the conference badge, and even virtual conference tips.  We may decide to maintain the server well beyond the Summit as a community space.

It Mostly Worked

We scheduled brief runthroughs with all of the speakers the day before the Summit. Everyone had a chance to get comfortable with the process and work out any last minute problems.  On the day of the Summit we embedded the livestream in the Summit site, along with a link to the discord server for discussion. There were a few audio glitches where speakers had to briefly drop out, but all things considered it went pretty smoothly.

Once the Summit was over the entire livestream of the Summit was posted automatically to OSHWA’s YouTube channel.  Within a day or two we had broken out all of the individual talks into a video playlist and pulled the audio from our panel discussion into a stand alone podcast episode.

To the extent that things worked, one of the big reasons was the nature of the OSHWA community.  Besides being generally great and supportive (no small thing), the open source hardware community already sees itself as a community and is already comfortable with connecting via online tools.  That made it easy for them to enthusiastically watch the live stream and jump into the online discussion. Not all types of events have this starting point, which may suggest that they are not great candidates for this type of virtual structure.

If you are reading this because you are working on your own virtual event, good luck!  We are happy to answer questions if you have them. Email us at info@oshwa.org. StreamYard also has a referral program, so if you drop us a line at info@oshwa.org we can give you a $10 credit if you want it.

The 2020 Open Hardware Summit is Going Virtual

In our last update we promised to continue to monitor the coronavirus situation and to update the community as things evolved. Today we are announcing that things have evolved, and explaining what that means for the community and the Summit.

  1. We are switching to an all-virtual summit for 2020.  We are coordinating with speakers to move all presentations to streaming online video.  You can expect a schedule similar to the one we have already announced, as well as a robust set of online chat options for the community to discuss the day’s events.
  2. We also still plan on holding the pre-party happy hour the evening of March 12 for community members who are in NYC.  The happy hour is free to anyone who is able to attend. If you are in the area we look forward to seeing you there.  However, we do not recommend traveling to NYC just for the happy hour.  
  3. We continue to offer full refunds on tickets to anyone who has purchased tickets to the Summit.  Contact info@oshwa.org for more details.
  4. We will be sending full swag bags to all ticket holders.
  5. Next year’s summit will be in NYC again on April 9, 2021. Mark your calendars!

While we are sorry to have to make this change, we are still excited about this year’s Summit.   We have a fantastic lineup of speakers and even more OSHWA announcements planned. While we know that many members of our community will be disappointed not to be able to see each other in person this year, we look forward to seeing all of you virtually on Friday and in person in 2021.

Thank you all again for being part of the open source hardware community! 

Update on the China Summit, Open Hardware Month, and Future Summits

This blog post is an update for the OSHWA community about the 2019 Open Hardware Summit in Shenzhen, October as Open Hardware Month, and how OSHWA will think about Summits going forward.

The tl;dr version of this post is:

  1. OSHWA will not be holding the Open Hardware Summit in 2019
  2. OSHWA will be encouraging locally-organized events and gatherings across the globe as part of Open Hardware Month this October (email us at info@oshwa.org if would like to host one!)
  3. OSHWA will shift the Summit to the spring starting in 2020. The Summit will also be held in the same city for at least 3 years starting in 2020.

There is a lot to unpack here, so let’s get to it.

2019 Open Hardware Summit in Shenzhen

At the end of the 2018 Summit OSHWA announced that it would be holding the 2019 Open Hardware Summit in Shenzhen, China.  Shenzhen has a vibrant local community of open source hardware enthusiasts. Many members of the OSHW community were also very excited for the opportunity to travel to a location that is so central to manufacturing innovation.

Unfortunately, in 2017 China implemented a law governing the activities of non-Chinese NGOs operating in China.  This law created a number of bureaucratic hurdles for organizations like OSHWA that were interested in holding events in China.

Among other things, the law requires OSHWA to find a local Chinese Partner Unit (CPU) willing to act as our sponsor for the Summit.  CPUs can only be certain types of organizations, such as universities or registered Chinese NGOs. Companies cannot serve as CPUs. The CPU must also be willing to undertake a significant number of bureaucratic steps to officially register the event and coordinate with local authorities.  In addition to the process required of the CPU, OSHWA itself would have to undertake a significant and burdensome number of steps to collect, verify, and provide paperwork to Chinese authorities (see this article “Reams of Paperwork: Preparing Documents to Get Official Status in China” and the checklist we prepared here for a sense of what is involved).

OSHWA has spent the last few months trying to identify a suitable CPU.  We have been unsuccessful, and do not have confidence that we will be successful in the future.  Furthermore, even if we were able to find a suitable CPU, OSHWA cannot justify the time and resources required to comply with the various filing requirements associated with the law.

As a result, OSHWA decided that it was better to cancel the 2019 Summit now, before speakers and attendees had made commitments and travel arrangements.

That being said, OSHWA is still committed to supporting the OSHW community.  That is why we are pairing this announcement with two additional announcements.

October as Open Hardware Month

OSHWA has traditionally supported October as Open Hardware Month.  Open Hardware Month is an opportunity for the community to hold local events, hackathons, and  documentation days as part of an international movement.

OSHWA wants to take this opportunity to expand Open Hardware Month events.  We will work to provide resources for the community to create to local events, aggregate information to make it easy to find events in your area (or know that you need to organize one), and collect stories, video, and images of the events as they occur.  These events will not be OSHWA run or carry the formal OSHWA name. We believe that Open Hardware Month will provide us an opportunity to shine a light on open source hardware events happening around the world. It will also provide an opportunity for local communities to raise their hand and be recognized by the global OSHWA community.  Please email info@oshwa.org to learn more and volunteer to be involved.

Spring Summit 2020

Cancelling the Shenzhen Summit and focusing on Open Hardware Month will also allow us to shift the Summit to the spring.  Over the years a number of Summit participants have told us that the spring is generally less crowded with events and obligations, so this shift should make it easier for more community members to attend.

Starting with the 2020 Summit OSHWA also intends to commit to a single US host city for at least three years.

For the past year the OSHWA board has been debating two alternative paths for the Summit.  The first path would continue the pattern of moving the Summit every year. The benefits of this path is that it allows the Summit to come to the many different communities that support OSHW.  The costs of this path are that it makes the Summit more expensive to operate because OSHWA needs to spend time and resources learning a new city every year. Switching cities also makes it hard to capitalize on the enthusiasm of local attendees in order to convert them into full community members.

Conversely, the alternative path is to commit to a single city for multiple years of the Summit.  The benefits of this path is that it allows OSHWA to run the Summit significantly more efficiently and makes it easier for community members to plan.  Holding the Summit in a single city allows OSHWA to grow the number of attendees by turning opportunistic local attendees into more permanent members of the community.   The cost of this path is that it prevents us from moving the Summit to all of the communities that support OSHW.

After significant discussion, OSHWA has decided to adopt the single city approach.  This decision was easier because we paired it with the expanded Open Hardware Month.  We believe that Open Hardware Month will help fill at least part of the gap created by a stationary Summit.

—-

While none of these decisions are being made lightly, OSHWA believes that combined they allow us to create a rhythm that is more supportive of the vibrant OSHW community.  Open Hardware Month in the fall will shine a spotlight on all of the local OSHW communities around the world. The Summit in the spring will provide those communities a single place to come together and meet in person.

As always, OSHWA exists because of its community and we want to hear from you.  Please let us know what you think in the comments below or in the forums.

OSHWA Supports Design Patent Clarity in Amicus Brief

OSHWA has just filed an amicus brief in a case regarding design patents. OSHWA urged the court to uphold a rule that a design patent covers only what the patent itself says it covers. This rule allows everyone to understand what is and is not protected by a design patent. A clear understanding of the scope of design patent protection is particularly important for open source hardware creators who share their design files for use and modification by others because they need to know when a patent would – and would not – apply to their design.

The Case

The case in U.S. court, called Curver Luxembourg SARL v. Home Expressions, Inc., is actually about furniture patterns. Curver applied for a design patent on a wicker pattern similar to one found in ancient Islamic designs. The pattern looks like this:

Design patents don’t protect abstract designs as represented in all things at all times. (Copyrights do that.) When you apply for a design patent you need to identify the “article of manufacture,” the actual thing that embodies the design. Curver initially failed to identify the thing that embodies the design, but eventually identified a “pattern for a chair.”

Curver’s designation of a “pattern for a chair” is important for what comes next. Another houseware manufacturer, Home Expressions, started selling a basket with a wicker pattern similar to Curver’s. Curver accused Home Expressions of infringing on Curver’s design patent. Curver believes that now that its patent for a “pattern for a chair” has been issued, the patent should be interpreted much more broadly to cover baskets, or any other object embodying the wicker design.

OSHWA’s Amicus Brief

From OSHWA’s standpoint, it does not really matter if the patterns on Curver’s and Home Expressions’ baskets are the same or not. What is important is that Curver’s patent is for the design embodied in chairs and baskets are not chairs (feel free to post your chair-basket venn diagrams in the comments). Curver should not be able to select arbitrarily or strategically the thing that embodies its design in order to get the patent, and then turn around and apply the patent well beyond the scope of that selection in the real world. Our brief asks the court to adopt a rule preventing that kind of behavior.

Regardless of what you think about the design patent system more broadly (and there are many opinions about it in the open source hardware community), the system can work only if patents give notice of what they cover. The “article of manufacture” (in this case, a chair) is essential to providing that notice because it shows how an otherwise abstract design applies to a particular object. It also places a reasonable limit on the scope of a design patent’s protection. Home Expressions should have been able to confidently ignore a chair-based patent in designing their basket.

The trial court agreed, and found for Home Expressions, but Curver has appealed the case. OSHWA has filed an amicus brief urging the appellate court to uphold the trial court. Our brief is in support of the rule that patents should be read to cover what they say they cover – and only what they say they cover.

This is important to the open source hardware community in at least two ways. First, creators cannot avoid infringing on existing patents if they do not have a way to understand what those patents do and do not cover. The patent system works only if people can figure out from patents themselves what those patents cover. This is important for maintaining a healthy environment for open source hardware creators to share design files with others without exposing themselves or other creators to unknown risks.

Second, some open source hardware creators rely on licenses to impose openness obligations on future users of their hardware. Those creators cannot understand when the openness obligations apply to future users or how far those obligations extend if they cannot understand when the design patents included in the license are being used.

Curver actually took the fairly unusual step of opposing our request to file our amicus brief. Fortunately, the court recognized that the open source hardware community could be impacted by the decision in this case and denied Curver’s attempt to keep us out.

OSHWA will continue to keep an eye on this case and provide updates as they develop. We would also like to say a big thank you to Kyle McLorg, George Laiolo, Erik Stallman, and Jennifer Urban at the Samuelson Law, Technology, & Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley Law for representing OSHWA in this case. They drafted the original brief, as well as the argument that convinced the court to accept it over Curver’s objections.

OSHWA Certification 2.0 is Here

Today at the Open Hardware Summit OSHWA launched version 2.0 of the open source hardware certification program. We have a new website, a new directory, and  lots of new resources for learning about open source hardware.  You should really check it out.

We announced our intention to create this new version of the certification back in March.  Since then we have been working in consultation with the board and the community to develop a new version of the site.  Version 2 of the certification site uses specific examples from the community to illustrate best practices and licensing decisions for creators of open source hardware.

Launched in 2016, the original certification program has been a success.  We have certified over 200 pieces of hardware from 27 countries on 5 continents.  The certification logo is making it easier to find open source hardware that meets the community definition of open source hardware and the certification process makes it easier to incorporate best practices into releasing open source hardware.

With that being said, there is always room for improvement.  In addition to the community, with the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation we have been working with the Technology Law and Policy Clinic at NYU Law and the design team at Objectively think through the best way to make version 2 work for everyone.

Besides overhauling the look and feel of the site (embedding google docs in wordpress pages helped us get the program up and running quickly, but that approach admittedly comes with some design limitations), OSHWA had three primary goals for the the new website:

Consolidate Information

Since its founding, OSHWA has created a series of fantastic resources such as best practices and FAQs to help the community develop open hardware.  Each of these resources was developed in response to specific concerns, building up on existing resources and expanding explanations.

One side effect of that development history is that resources sometimes contained overlapping information that did not completely align.  It could also be hard to know exactly where to go to find a specific answer.

The new certification site borrows from the previously-developed resources and consolidates them into a unified presentation.  OSHWA has worked hard to create paths that are helpful for new members of the community just getting up to speed and existing members who want to take a deeper dive into something specific.  The new site allows you to skim along the top of information related to open source hardware and then immerse yourself in information when something catches your eye.

Licensing Guidance

There is no getting around the fact that licensing open source hardware is more complicated than licensing open source software. There are multiple elements to consider (hardware, software, documentation, etc.), multiple types of intellectual property at play, and some ambiguity around what is even protectable.

For the first time, OSHWA is providing specific guidance on licensing.  That guidance comes in two forms.

First, OSHWA recommends explicitly and individually licensing hardware, software, and documentation associated with a piece of certified hardware.  This will bring true clarity to future users.  The certification application now requires you to specify a license for each of these elements.

Second, OSHWA recommends specific licenses for each of those elements.  These recommendations are not exclusive, and OSHWA is happy to consider adding additional licenses as they are developed or as the community requests.  The recommended licences were chosen in an attempt to make it easy to pick a license that works for you.  This process is further simplified by providing examples of existing certified hardware that use a given license.  That means that users who are not sure which license to use can simply follow in the path of other hardware creators that they trust.

Searchability

The first version of the certification directory was a google spreadsheet embedded in a web page.  That made it easy to get certified hardware listed online.  It made it hard to actually explore the directory.

The new certification directory fundamentally redesigns the user experience. It is now easy to find hardware, search by features, and drill down into what is really available.  We hope that this makes the directory a much more useful resource for the community.

Next Steps

Version 2 is the newest version of the certification process, but it does not have to be the last.  Play around with it, certify something, and let us know what you think.  If you have ideas for features or information, or licenses you think we missed, please let us know in the forums.

Revoking Certification for ES000001: MOTEDIS XYZ

Today, for the first time in the history in the Open Source Hardware Certification Program, OSHWA is revoking the certification for hardware.  OSHWA is revoking the certification for the MOTEDIS XYZ 3D printer, with the UID ES000001, because the documentation is no longer publicly available.  We have attempted to contact Motedis with a request to re-post the documentation but they have not been responsive.

Since this is the first time OSHWA has revoked a certification, we want to explain what happened, as well as what we will do in order to help prevent this type of situation in the future.

What happened

A few weeks ago, a community member wrote in and noted that the documentation link for the XYZ was no longer live.  After reaching out to the contact person listed in the certification application, we have been unable to obtain a copy of the documentation to post publicly.   Without the documentation, the XYZ is no longer in compliance with the program. Therefore OSWHA revoked the certification.

What it means

Revoking the certification means that going forward the XYZ can no longer be advertised as being certified open source hardware.  It does not mean that Motedis’ failure to provide documentation today makes them retroactively in violation of the certification rules.  The certification requires that the documentation be available at the time of certification. It does not require the certifying party to commit to making a copy of that documentation available in perpetuity.  This is a burden that is unreasonable to expect of a party applying for certification.

What now

When the Certification program was being developed, there was a debate over whether or not OSHWA should try and host a repository of all of the certified hardware.  One advantage of such a centralized repository would have been to allow OSHWA itself to maintain archive copies of documentation.

However, that approach also comes with costs.  Developing and maintaining a feature-complete documentation hosting solution is beyond OSHWA’s core competency.  Many good solutions for developing and maintaining software and documentation already exist online. Requiring certifiers to update and maintain yet another repository of documentation in order to certify was determined to be unnecessarily burdensome.  Instead, the certification directory supports links which point to the place where the developers already host and maintain their documentation.

OSHWA continues to believe that this decentralized approach is correct.  Nonetheless, the first revocation of certification provides us with an opportunity to consider improvements.  OSHWA has started to investigate a process that would allow us to archive a version of all documentation. This archive would not be used at the primary documentation storage location.  Instead, it would only be used in the event that the original documentation was no longer available. That would allow users of hardware to access documentation even after the responsible party stops supporting it as open.

If you have thoughts about this, please let us know in the forums.

OSHWA Certification Logo is Official

We at OSHWA are excited to announce that the OSHWA Certification process has an officially registered trademark. This registration will make it easier for OSHWA to prevent people from using the OSHWA Open Source Hardware Certification logo if they have not actually gone through the certification process. We hope this will give the community more confidence when they see the OSHWA certification logo on hardware out in the world.

While there are many good faith ways to describe something as “open source hardware,” OSHWA considers certified projects to have met the gold standard of open source hardware by formally committing to comply with all of the elements of the community definition.

Are Trademarks Compatible with Open Source Hardware?

Trademarks are not in conflict with open source hardware. Trademarks are designed to indicate the origins of goods, not to control their reproduction. Knowing who produced something is especially important with hardware, because who actually manufactured hardware can be just as important to its reliability as who designed it.

Trademarks also do not prevent someone else from building on or using hardware that is protected by the mark. Companies like Lulzbot, Evil Mad Scientist, Adafruit, and Sparkfun all make open source hardware that anyone can copy, improve, or build upon. What people cannot do is pretend that their version of the hardware came from one of those companies by selling their version under the brand name of the original creator. That makes sense, because the original creator is no longer responsible for the new versions.

When creators have invited the world to make use of their open hardware, trademarks are how we know which pieces of hardware still come from the original designer. OSHWA believe that strong brand identities are compatible with a vibrant open source hardware ecosystem.

What OSHWA’s Trademark Means

The OSHWA Open Source Hardware Certification process is designed to make it easy for end users to quickly tell if their hardware meets the community definition of Open Source Hardware.  When you see the OSHWA certification logo, you know what “open source hardware” really means.

example mark

The trademark will allow us to control how people use the certification logo out in the world. In concrete terms, it means that someone who fraudulently uses the OSHWA certification logo on hardware that does not meet the community definition is infringing on the OSHWA trademark.  That means that OSHWA could bring a trademark infringement action against that person. This will allow OSHWA to protect the integrity of the certification mark.

What  OSHWA’s Trademark Doesn’t Mean

As we noted in a post at the outset of the certification development process, OSHWA has no interest in controlling, nor ability to control, who gets to use the term “open source hardware.”  Similarly, OSHWA does not have, nor desire, any control over who gets to use the Gear Logo and when they get to use it. Open Source Hardware is a concept that was developed by the community and continues to evolve as the community evolves.

Instead, OSHWA’s trademark will allow OSHWA to control the OSHWA-specific certification process.  If the community definition of open source hardware is important to you, the OSHWA certification logo will be an easy way to know that the hardware you are holding matches that definition.

What is Next?

We are getting excited to launch version 2.0 of the certification process at the Summit this September.  One of the big goals of 2.0 is to make it even easier to understand how licensing works with open source hardware, and make it easy to explore hardware that has already been certified.  If you are at the Summit you will be able to see that launch in person. If you can’t make it, keep an eye on this space for updates.

Also, a huge thank you to the students of the Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic at Stanford University Law School for guiding OSHWA through the registration process.

Thoughts?  Questions? You can always find OSHWA on Twitter, Facebook, and in the forums.

 

OSHWA Certification 2.0

After almost a year and a half of community discussion, OSHWA unveiled the Open Source Hardware Certification Program at the 2016 Open Hardware Summit.  Today, with the help of a major grant from the Sloan Foundation, we are excited to announce that we are taking major steps towards Certification 2.0.

The original certification program has some fairly straightforward goals.  It is designed to make it easy for creators to identify their hardware as compliant with the community definition of open source hardware, as well as make it easy for users to know that hardware that is advertised as “open source” meets  their expectations.  The certification process gives a creator confidence that they have done everything required to call their hardware open source.  The certification logo gives users confidence that they will be able to access, build upon, and hack any hardware that they receive.

We didn’t know what to expect when we launched the certification program and have been blown away by the results.  There are currently 170 certified hardware projects from 18 countries on 5 continents participating in the program.

While we are excited about the certification program, shortly after it launched we started thinking of ways to improve it.  The current interface built on a combination of google forms and wordpress is functional, but not necessarily elegant.  Once the process was live, we also started getting feedback from users on ways to make it better.  One major concern was that the registration process exists in a bit of a vacuum.  It asks the creator to verify that she has complied with all of the requirements but does not provide very much guidance on the best ways to comply or the various choices that can be made and still comply.

For the past year we have been working with the Technology Law and Policy Clinic at the New York University School of Law to create more robust guidance to help creators navigate the licensing, documentation, and other decisions that creators must make when they are working towards certification.  We have also been working with the team at Objectively to turn that guidance into an interactive process that draws on examples from the community.

The grant from the Sloan Foundation allows us to take that work and turn the certification into a much more robust and useful resource.  We are hoping to have the new site ready to launch by the 2018 Summit.  Until then, please let us know if you have thoughts, ideas, or concerns.  We are very excited about the next chapter of the Certification Program and hope you will be too.

2017-2019 Board Nominees

Become an OSHWA member today to vote on nominees!

This year, we have 3 open seats on the OSHWA board. Board members will hold a 2-year position. Once board members have been chosen by the community, the board will appoint a President, VP, and Secretary. As every nominee answered “Yes” to having 5 hours a month to give to the board, we did not include that question in each nominee’s data. Board responsibilities include fundraising, advising on goals and direction, and carrying out compliance of the organization’s purposes and bylaws. The vote will be open on Oct. 14th through Oct 21st. Members will be emailed a link to vote. Here are the nominees in alphabetical order:

Akiba

Why do you want to be on the board?

I’ve been involved and worked with many nonprofits and NGOs doing projects like monitoring illegal waste dumping, monitoring water quality in the Himalayas, radiation monitoring in Japan, etc. All of those projects have used open source hardware in some form because the designs could be rapidly put together, deployed, and assessed. Crises are becoming the norm and I believe open source hardware will play a crucial role to prevent, mitigate, or assist aid workers and victims during those times. I’d like to give back to the open source hardware community for all the benefits I’ve received as well as help guide OSHW and OSHWA towards more cooperation with nonprofit humanitarian and aid agencies.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

I’ve been designing open source hardware for the past ten years and have run an open source hardware company for the same amount of time. I think it’s important for OSHWA board members to understand the value of OSHW and how that translates into commercial value for their companies. I’ve put together or have been involved putting together four hackerspaces (Tokyo Hackerspace, Mothership Hackermoms, Knowledge Garden Dharamsala, and HackerFarm) and understand the importance of building, maintaining, and growing community. I’ve also worked with, consulted, and put together open hardware projects for groups like UNESCO, World Bank, and IAEA and believe that it’s important to reach out and educate NGOs doing important work to the benefits of open source hardware.

Will Caruana

Why do you want to be on the board?

I want to be part of something bigger then my self. I feel that I will add an outside perspective. I don’t work in any industry that produces goods but I live in that maker space of the communitte.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

I served as president of a non profit for 5 years it’s the Friends of Wilbraham Public Access. I was the chairmen if the Board Band Committee which was able to set up a municipal corporation that sell fiber optic services to ISP’s. I also love make things currently I like making high voltage projects like my demo fusion reactor which currently produces a ball of plasma in a vacuum. I am also running the fun with high voltage workshop at the Hackaday Superconference because I like helping people learn and work with high voltage.

 

Arielle Hein

Why do you want to be on the board?

I work and engage with a vastly diverse range of different communities, but one of the primary overlaps between these groups is that they all rely heavily on open source tools, hardware in particular. I am extremely passionate about building bridges between the arts and engineering, and making this cross-disciplinary work more accessible to a broad range of makers – to artists and women especially. I love to create, hack, and teach all things open source – but as much as I’m excited about exploring emerging technologies, the thing that drives me most is the way that sharing knowledge is an opportunity to build connections between people. I am excited about the prospect of more direct engagement within the Open Source Hardware community, and eager to assist in continuing to extend the mission of this organization.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

Since my time as a graduate student at ITP NYU, I have worked extensively with Open Source Hardware and have engaged with the community consistently since then. In my current role as an Instructor at the University of Colorado, I teach interaction design and physical computing courses that rely heavily on open source tools. Beyond skill acquisition, my philosophy as an educator focuses on the importance of knowledge sharing, documentation, and collaboration – notions that I will bring to my contributions on the board of OSHWA. I also have extensive community organizing experience through my ongoing work as the Coordinator of ITP Camp. I am a strong communicator (and listener!) and very organized and responsive in all correspondence. I am extremely excited about the opportunity to serve not he OSHWA board and am hopeful to deepen my contributions within this community. I am glad to answer any questions via email from anyone in the community regarding my qualifications or interest in this role!

David Li

Why do you want to be on the board?

I am currently the executive director of Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab which is a government supported platform to promote and facilitate the collaboration between the Shenzhen open hardware ecosystem and the global makers and open source hardware groups. Prior to SZOIL, I also started the research hub Hacked Matter with two collaborators to study global maker movement and open hardware ecosystem in Shenzhen and publish our findings. Shenzhen open hardware ecosystem is currently a 100 billion industry and the insight into how this ecosystem was developed and structured could contribute the future growth of the global open source hardware development.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

I have been an open source and free software contributor since 1990 on various of projects. Ardublock I developed in 2012 is one of the most popular graphical development environments for Arduino. I have been doing research in the area of open hardware ecosystem in China since 2011. In my previous role as the director of ObjectWeb an European based open source software consortium in 2003-2006, I contributed to the joint effort between ObjectWeb and major Chinese open source software projects. I can bring new insights to the board and help bridge the global open hardware and the open ecosystem in China.

Narcisse Mbunzama

Why do you want to be on the board?

I want to bring my experience and knowledge on open hardware and related issues with a special view on technical and organizations development. As a citizen of the democratic republic of Congo, I wish to represent the global south in the board, to bring valuable contribution and inputs finally to help achieve the open hardware association mission.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

I hold a master degree in computer science and technology innovation and I am a fellow of the international telecommunication union and member of several technology innovation organizations around the world. I’m a serial award winning tech innovator and I conduct researches on standards for open hardware, design of system and related issues. With my background and experience, I personally believe that I am a qualified candidate to join the board and i will bring valuable inputs and contribution in the board.

Joel Murphy

Why do you want to be on the board?
I’ve been a board member of OSHWA since 2015, and now that my two year stint has ended I am once again throwing my hat in the ring to continue serving this great organization. In the last two years, I am proud to have helped steer the creation of the OSHWA Certification. We also made our first formal staff hires, for which I worked on the compensation committee. It has been amazing to watch our community grow. I hope to continue as a board member to ensure that our certification is strong and widely used. It has been a great pleasure to work with the other dedicated board members and it would be an honor to receive your vote to continue giving back to our community at this level.
What qualifies you to be a board member?
I have been a user, maker, and teacher of open-source hardware since 2006. I have co-founded two open-source hardware start-ups, and I’m working on my fourth. I have been to every OSH Summit since 2010 and I have personal and professional relationships with many community members. I taught Physical Computing at Parsons in NYC from 2006 to 2014. During that time I watched the open-source hardware movement explode around me.  Working with students in 2011, I saw an opportunity, and with a friend started World Famous Electronics, maker of the Pulse Sensor, an optical heart rate monitor for makers and researchers. That foray into bio-sensing lead me to co-found OpenBCI, makers of low cost, open-source EEG amplifiers for neuroscience research and education. In addition to these endeavors, I’m am also working with a team to create and commercialize open-source hearing aids and hearing aid development tools. 5 of my projects are now OSHWA certified. I’m committed to increasing the awareness of OSHWA, growing our organization and continuing to support our mission.

Chris Osterwood

Why do you want to be on the board?

I am a longtime user of Open Source Hardware and have benefited from it greatly. I want to return that favor and help others benefit from OSHW. I’m a mechanical engineer by training and I chose that educational path because I was fascinated and captivated by the mechanical world. I gained tremendous design insight and experience by taking apart my toys as a child — in fact my favorite store sold broken junk by the pound. Being able to see how my toys worked gave me interest in designing new products. Since college, I’ve learned electrical design through study of open source hardware schematics, bills of materials, and design journals. I now see that I’m repeating my childhood but in digital circuit design — learning new skills and design strategies by interrogating what others have made. And without OSHW, without published schematics, this kind of interrogation and subsequent learning is much more difficult. What I’ve learned has allowed me to start my own company, Capable Robot Components, which will be releasing a line of OSHW products aimed at changing the make vs buy decisions that makers of unmanned ground robots currently face. I want to be on the OSHWA board to further its mission and to help others benefit from OSHW as I have.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

I’m not sure quite how to answer this question. But, I understand and am interested in organization building — for example I’m on the steering committee of the Pittsburgh Robotics Network, which is becoming a 501c6 organization. I am embracing OSHW with the products I’m designing at my company. I have functional knowledge in hardware design, embedded software, web software, marketing, and law. I enjoy teaching and speaking — I’ve given talks on law & robots (Practicing Law Institute) and how we tested 3D sensors at my previous company (Embedded Vision Summit and ROSCON). I listen. I try to make well reasoned decisions.

Jeff Paranich

Why do you want to be on the board?

My low-level coding interests for the past 20 years have led me to hardware design, and the colossal reward of holding a tangible, physical item, in your hands that can be shared with others to extend upon and use in their designs. While programming low-level in itself is still fulfilling, the thought that everyday consumers can build their own commercial grade products with all the distributor resources available today is truly phenomenal. Curiously, the knowledge that such a movement exist is not known by the general population. One simply envisions big factories, assembly lines, and blue-chip organizations being the sole innovator and originator; when in reality there are compelling and pioneering designs being done by small organizations and private individuals in their own homes. I believe this is a tragic mindset; the homebrew and maker community was strong in the eighties, there was a general knowledge it existed by all and anticipation of an upcoming wave to pave the future to new technology. I can attest that today open hardware has, and will continue to gain, a lot of momentum – and is strongest it has been in two decades – but may continue to be eclipsed by large organizations that keep much of their business proprietary. Canada, my home country, has a very strong post-secondary system; world-class Computer Science and Engineering schools, however outside of BioWare and BlackBerry there has not been much traction in STEM corporations, small business’, nor makers in the nation, I believe due in part to organizations such as OSHWA not having a strong enough presence to inform and encourage innovation and open source/hardware from early on and to general masses. Thus, I desire to be on the board to expand awareness of the Open Source Hardware Association and inform and educate those who are not aware of what it represents. I pledge to attend fairs or events, fundraise well beyond the expected $300 as it is not enough, and provide meaningful input on the Board of Director meetings. I also believe the best protection for OSHWA’s future is committing resources to youth at early ages, expanding their mind into hardware before they move onto post-secondary or private studies – even presenting hardware as a valid field of self-study that can merit much personal success with all the open source resources available today. OSHWA is the strongest association and best bet right now to incite change, grow the movement further, and ensure the hardware community story remains a rich and colorful one. It would be an absolute honor to be part of the team and ensure its continued success.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

I hold dual degrees from the University of Alberta- Bachelor of Science in Computer Science & Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Mathematics, with a minor in Business. I have been a projects controls manager for over two billion dollars in heavy oil projects; managing revenue, cost, margins, scheduling and progress completion. When I am not managing projects, I am designing hardware in my workshop. My most common projects typically involve power supplies, FPGA boards, video processing ADC/DAC boards, and audio amplifiers. Furthermore, I have coded a multitude of company software programs – software as simple as employee in/out of office interfaces, to estimating software for piping fabrication, to invoicing software which neared that of a full ERP system. I have a thorough knowledge of C++, C and the Unix tool set (Awk, Sed, etc), and believe in the Unix philosophy of building simple, short, clear, modular, and extensible code that can be easily maintained and repurposed by developer’s other than its creators. I can operate under tight deadlines and sometimes unrealistic deliverables, accepting the challenge and looking forward to the feeling of reward once finished. Lastly, I am co-founder of a successful videography company in Alberta (J&C Media Corporation), managing employees and finances and scheduling – also doing occasional filming myself in the field for corporate and private events. All said my past is very multi-faceted, I have a multitude of exposure to many elements at various business levels and have been successful to date with a clear, structured framework to how I approach things and would apply all my techniques to ensure the continued success of the Open Source Hardware Association.

Nick Poole

Why do you want to be on the board?

I’ve always been a proponent of OSHW and other Free and Open initiatives and I believe I finally have the free time and bandwidth to get involved with steering the ship. I’m also interested in talking to other board members and learning from their perspectives.

What qualifies you to be a board member?

I’ve worked for SparkFun Electronics for almost 7 years where I’ve had the opportunity to see open hardware from a number of perspectives: as a marketing professional, a community discussion leader, and a designer and maintainer of open hardware projects. I believe that my work experience combined with my unique personal perspective and affinity for facilitating and mediating discussions could make me a valuable member of the board.