Announcing the OSHWA Open Source Hardware Certification Program

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Today the Open Source Hardware Association is excited to announce the OSHWA Open Source Hardware Certification program.  The program allows hardware that complies with the community definition of open source hardware to display a certified open source hardware logo.  It will also make it easier for users of open source hardware to track down documentation and more information.  You can check out the program here, and keep on reading for some information about how it will work.

 

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These companies and organizations have agreed to certify at least one piece of hardware by the end of this year.

Background and Purpose

Almost a year and a half ago, OSHWA announced its intention to explore the creation of an Open Source Hardware certification.  At that point, the open source hardware community had created a community definition of open source hardware and the open source hardware open gear logo.  Both of these were significant contributions to the growth in awareness around open source hardware.

By design, no one owns the term “open source hardware” or the open gear logo.  This allowed both the term and the logo to be widely adopted by the community.  However, it also created a challenge.  In many cases, creators would label their hardware as being open source and use the open gear logo without complying with the community definition.  This created confusion in the community where users were unsure what it really meant when something was labeled “open source hardware”.

The certification is designed to complement the existing open gear logo by bringing clarity to how the creator is using the term “open source hardware”.  Unlike the open gear logo, the certification logo is controlled by OSHWA.  In order to use the certification logo, a hardware creator must make a legally binding promise that their hardware complies with the community definition of open source hardware. That means that when users see the certificated open source hardware logo they know the hardware complies with the community definition of open source hardware.

In the summer of 2015, OSHWA asked the community a number of questions about how a certification might work and what kind of value it might bring.  By the 2015 Open Hardware Summit, those discussions had coalesced around version 1 of the Open Source Hardware Certification Specification.  In the year since, OSHWA has worked with the Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic at Stanford University Law School to turn that specification into a fully functional registration system.

The System

Starting today, you can register your hardware for free by certifying that it complies with the community definition of open source hardware.  The registration site – certificate.oshwa.org – has an overview of the process, the text of the license agreement for use of the certification logo, guidelines for how the logo can be used, a history of the certification process, an FAQ related to the certification, a form that allows you to register your hardware, and a directory of registered hardware that includes links to relevant documentation and information.

Upon registration, you will receive the right to use the certification logo and a unique identifier for the registered version of your hardware.

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That unique ID has two components.  The first two characters represent a country code.  Open source hardware is a worldwide community, and the country code is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate that fact.  The remaining characters are numbers assigned sequentially based on when the hardware was registered.

The Importance of Your Contribution

One of the critical elements of the certification process is the idea of the creator contribution.  Hardware often involves many third party components outside of the control of the designer.  Therefore, it is unreasonable to require every component of a piece of hardware to be fully open before becoming certified.

The creator contribution rule is an attempt to address this issue. In order to certify a piece of hardware, the creator must fully open any elements of the hardware that is within their control.  If they have the legal ability to license it, it must be licensed openly.  If they created documentation, that documentation must be freely distributed.

If components were created by third parties, the creator does not have the ability to license them or distribute the documentation.  In those cases, the creator merely has to disclose the parts in the bill of materials and certify that they are available without an NDA.  This system allow creators to distribute legitimately open source hardware without creating a (currently) unrealistic burden to find fully open components.

Assistance

OSHWA has designed this process to be as user friendly and straightforward as possible.  However, it does require users of the certification to make a legally binding promise that they will only use the certification logo on hardware that complies with the community definition.  We recognize that this sort of legal promise can raise concerns or cause uncertainty for some community members.  Therefore, we encourage users to write in to certification@oshwa.org with questions.

While OSHWA will work hard to answer as many questions as possible, some questions may require legal advice.  That is why we have partnered with the Cardozo Law School Tech Startup Clinic.  The clinic has agreed to receive referrals from OSHWA for free and low-cost legal advice regarding the certification process.  We hope to add additional clinics and resources to this program in the future.  (If you are a lawyer who would like to be involved with the referral program, please contact us at certification@oshwa.org).

About Those Unique IDs

Ever since we started discussing unique IDs that were sequential, we’ve gotten variations of a single question: “how can I get a low number?”  In order to give as many community members as possible the opportunity to obtain a coveted low unique ID number, we have decided not to start issuing numbers until the end of October.  All hardware registered before the end of October will be combined into a single pool, from which we will issue IDs starting November 1.  That means that all pieces of hardware registered before the end of the month have an equal opportunity at low registration numbers.  Starting November 1, we will start issuing IDs as hardware is registered.

Version 1

This is the first version of the OSHWA Open Source Hardware Certification program.  It was designed with a great deal of community input and is intended to complement existing pillars of the community.  We hope that you take a look, try it out, and find it useful.  At the same time, we know that as the certification program grows we will find things that can be improved and applications that we failed to anticipate.  That’s why we welcome your thoughts and ideas in the comments of this post, in the forums, in the certification@oshwa.org inbox, and online @OSHWassociation.

In order to provide that feedback, you first need to check out the certification. So stop reading this blog post, click on over to certificate.oshwa.org, and register something!

Don’t have anything documented enough to register?  Bring a project to one of the Documentation Days around the world (or host your own) as part of Open Hardware Month so you can make it easier for people to build on your stuff.

OSHWA 2016-2018 Board Nominations Open!

OSHWA is looking for 5 new faces to join the board of directors for the Open Source Hardware Association. The nominee form is for self-nominations only. Please fill out the nominee form to become a nominee or forward the link to someone you want to nominate. Do not fill out the form for someone else. The purpose of this form is to tell voting members why you want to server on the OSHWA board. We will be publish the nominees and their answers on Oct. 14th. Board members hold a 2-year position. Once board members have been chosen by the community, the board will appoint a President, VP, and Secretary. Board responsibilities include fundraising, advising on goals and direction, and carry out compliance with the organizations purposes and bylaws. See the board member agreement to get a sense of the responsibilities. Board members are expected to adhere to the board attendance policy and come prepared having read the board packet. Board members are expected to spend 5-10 hours of time per month on OSHWA. Nominees can meet current board members who are present at the Summit on Oct. 7th to ask questions or submit questions to info@oshwa.org. Nominations will be open until Oct. 14th.

Nominee form.

Member voting will take place Oct. 16-18. Want to vote in the election? Become a member! Please note that only individuals can vote, corporate members cannot.

October IS Open Hardware Month

October is Open Source Hardware Month. You are invited to participate in events that will add clarity to the open source hardware definition, grow contributions to the movement, and provide education around how to publish a project or product as open source hardware.

Open Hardware Summit

The Open Hardware Summit is just a week away! OSHWA will be hosting our annual Open Hardware Summit in Portland, OR on October 7th. OSHWA is launching the Open Source Hardware Certification at the Summit. Tickets to the Summit are still available but going fast. See you in Portland!

OSHW Certification

OSHWA will launch the first version of the open source hardware certification. This is an open source hardware certifications administered by OSHWA. This certification is designed to benefit at least two parts of the open source hardware community.

First, it benefits purchasers of open source hardware by making it easy to identify truly open source hardware in the marketplace.  Projects and products obtaining certification and displaying the certification logo clearly communicate a commonly agreed upon definition of openness with customers and users.  While certification is not a condition for openness, obtaining certification is a way to make it clear to others that a given project is open source hardware.

Second, the certification benefits creators of open source hardware.  By giving creators specific guidelines, certification allows open source hardware creators to confidently declare their projects and products as open source hardware.  Certification also allows creators to defend that declaration by pointing to compliance with specific criteria defined in the certification process.

Users will self-certify compliance in order to use the certification logos.  Self-certification will give creators the right to use the OSHWA open source hardware certification logo.  As part of the self-certification process, creators will agree to subject themselves to penalties for non-compliance.  OSHWA will be responsible for enforcing those penalties.

Documentation Days

Throughout the month of October, OSHWA will be hosting several documentation days for anyone, individual or company to participate. Documentation Days will be free, community organized events to document your most recent open source hardware project following the OSHW definition and guidelines. This is the perfect time to document that project you just haven’t gotten around to open sourcing. Look on the events page for documentation days in your community throughout October. Or host your own Documentation Day! Follow us onTwitter or Facebook to stay tuned to the action.

Join OSHWA Today!

The Open Source Hardware Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to being the voice of the open hardware community, ensuring that technological knowledge is accessible to everyone, and encouraging the collaborative development of technology that serves education, environmental sustainability, and human welfare. Become a member of OSHWA today! Board nominations and voting will happen soon, members get voting rights!

Open Source Hardware Certification Launching at the Summit

Come for the great speakers and community, stay to find out about the brand new open source hardware certification program (tickets are still available).

After lots of work by lots of people stretching back . . . lots of time, OSHWA is finally ready to unveil our open source hardware certification program.  The certification will be a way for the open source hardware community to know that when a project or product calls itself “open source hardware” they mean the version of “open source hardware” that complies with the community definition of open source hardware.

At the summit we’ll explain how you can get your stuff certified, how you can use the certification to learn more about stuff you get from other people, and other things that you might want to know about the certification.  There’s no substitute for getting that information in person (trust me), so if you don’t already have tickets click here!

Documentation Days – Host your own!

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What is Documentation Day?

Throughout the month of October, OSHWA will be hosting several documentation days for anyone, individual or company, to participate. Documentation Days will be free, community organized events to document your most recent open source hardware project following the OSHW definition and guidelines. Look for documentation days from OSHWA’s board members and branches in their communities throughout October. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to stay tuned and for dates and locations of our events and look for updates on our blog.

Why Documentation Days?

October is Open Source Hardware Month. This is the perfect time to document that project you  haven’t gotten around to documenting but want to make it open source. Documenting your hardware is the most important step in open sourcing your hardware because it gives other people a way to use, build upon, and possibly improve it. Your well-documented designs will live on and take various shapes as other people use them, create derivatives and share them. It is much easier to ask the community for help or find collaborators with well-documented hardware.  Publishing your design files publicly can also establish your hardware as prior art.  If someone attempts to patent something similar, that prior art can prove that the hardware existed before the patent application, thus preventing it from being granted.  Finally, more open source hardware documentation will set an example for others to open source and document their hardware!  This year’s Documentation Days will help standardize key elements of good open source hardware documentation.

To bolster the community-written Open Source Hardware definition, OSHWA is launching the open source hardware certification in October as well. Take this opportunity to read about the certification and join the movement.

Who can host a Documentation Day?

Anyone can host a documentation day! OSHWA’s board members will be hosting documentation days in various locations, but we can’t be everywhere. It is unlikely that OSHWA will be able to help with costs of a documentation day, but below are some tips to keep it cheap.  

How do you set up a documentation day?

Find a venue that has tables and chairs. Your local hackerspace may be a wonderfully aligned space to host a documentation day (and hopefully will not charge you a venue rate!). Public libraries may have free meeting rooms as well. Make sure the venue has lots of outlets for laptops – you may need to supply power strips.

Work with the venue to solidify a date. Send the date, time, location, and other details of your event to info@oshwa.org and your event will appear on the OSHWA Events page. If you’d like some physical handouts, include your mailing address.

Set up a way to RSVP (Email, Meetup, Eventbrite) if necessary. This is optional. You know your local area better than we do.

Use this logo when promoting your event: 

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Promote the event. The event must be a free, public event. Tweet @oshwassociation and we will retweet your event. Use hashtag #DocumentationDay.

Day of event:

  • Thank people for coming, introduce your documentation day as part of OSHWA’s Documentation Day series. Show slides and materials given to you by OSHWA. Point people towards oshwa.org and certificate.oshwa.org with questions.
  • After documenting hardware projects, ask people to use hashtag #iopensourced and #oshw and link to what they’ve documented.
  • Document the documentation day!  What worked?  What didn’t?  Did you and your participants develop any systems, processes, or templates that made creating documentation easier?  Be sure to share them with the larger community.
  • Don’t forget to clean up the venue at the end of your event.

White House’s Maker to Manufacturer Event

Open Source Hardware Breakout Session
Open Source Hardware Breakout Session

I was honored to lead a breakout session for the Maker to Manufacturer event hosted by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology. As the Executive Director of OSHWA, my break out session was on Open Source Hardware innovation. This is my take away from the individual viewpoints expressed by the group, highlighting what we can do as a community, as an industry, and from government and university perspectives. Below are the unedited notes from this breakout session. These ideas came from the collective participants in the breakout session and the views and ideas do not reflect those of the White House.

Our group discussed innovation through open source hardware through cross pollination in the open hardware community, industries, granting organizations, universities, and other institutions. In this way we can change what innovation looks like.

As a community, open source hardware needs to better explain the value proposition to the above listed institutions. We need to clarify the licensing around open source hardware, which OSHWA hopes to take a step toward with our certification process launching in Oct. With help, there could also be a database that grows out of the certification process with a space for contributing back and tracking changes. We need to offer educational experiences for policy makers and illustrate the social change and rapid innovation happening around open source hardware.

Within the government, the open source hardware community would like to be part of any process that might create limits though broad regulation around IP and hardware. We would like to see rethinking the standards and create scalable standards and taxonomies for open source hardware. We think it’s best for conversations in this space to strategically chose particular hardware fields to introduce, educate and change with open source hardware. Tax incentives for people to share their source publicly for the good of rapid innovation, foregoing a monopoly, would be well received in the community. Finally, we need the attention of the USPTO to alter the landscape of IP and be aware of open source prior art.

From a university perspective, a change must happen in the tech transfer offices for innovation to move forward at a university. Too often universities have IP constraints stemming from the Bayh-Dole Act which prohibits other inventions coming out of tax payer funded research and can even prohibit the inventor from continuing to innovate.

From an industry perspective, having a standard business case, such as royalties for creating a copy or derivative, would create a mutual respect. An understanding that risk adverse IP practices such as patents has a trickle down effect on innovation. In particular, open chipsets would be more useable. Industries could benefit from an open toolbox of the first 1,000 common pieces needed for any project, or a ‘simple things’ database containing source for the building blocks would be useful. In some industries also sharing test results with the source would be helpful.

At OSHWA we are reaching out to these four areas, community, government, university, and industry to assist in the changes reflected at this meeting.

Notes from the day, taken by Stephanie Santoso:

How do you innovate with open source hardware?

Moderated By Alicia Gibb, OSHWA

 October is open source hardware month

 We’re primed to create value with the public- we have lots of things that we can do.

Open source hardware is more of an IP concept. What policies currently stand in the

way of open innovation?

 University ownership of IP is a big one.

 Open source software- you know what the license is, you understand what it takes; but

with Creative Commons- you don’t even know what that means. It’s not clear what it is.

Hardware is weird because you can’t license it unless you have a patent. In October,

OSHWA will announce a certification (a trademark) to help Makers and entrepreneurs

understand the steps that they need to take to make sure their products are open

source based on OSHWA’s specific definitions.

 Matt: What does this do for the feedback loop for users? Ex. Bizzy box (sp?)- users

weren’t contributing content back to the community. What is the feedback loop which

incentivizes people to contribute the modifications back to the community?

 It would be great to have a clearly defined record system where you can track changes-

like a Github for hardware. When we look at open source hardware- we should look at

components- and what components you can open source too. Would be great to have

representatives from the semiconductor industry present at future conversations around

Maker to manufacturer. If they were repurposed to be reusable, this would be great.

Schematics for semiconductors are already available. Autodesk is creating a platform

where you can take modular components of your hardware design using an Autodesk

software platform and make them more openly accessible.

 Venkat: Would be great to have a database of open source hardware that makers in

makerspaces can use, so people know what’s already out there and available.

 Think about Texas Instruments- what’s the business case for a company to do open

source hardware? Why would TI or Intel care? You’d need to shift their mindset of how

they measure value- often its patents, but what about getting institutions to value

people who either develop open source hardware or contribute to open source hardware

projects in a similar manner?

 Frank Gayle: Should talk to NIST about how we think about standards. Michelle: we

should talk about taxonomy and how open source hardware fits.

 Fernando: I come from the pharma sector, which is different because it’s harder to

make a product mature. What’s the conceptual framework that moves us in this

direction? We don’t even have material property databases.

 What about procedural processes? It’s hard to divide these processes into specific

pieces. There may be interest in small scale manufacturing, but for large scale

manufacturing, we need to rethink this.

 Open source community- benefits will come for makers who are producing smaller scale

products. We are seeing that individuals are contributing to the open source hardware

community as a way to create a personal brand in some sense- open source represents

a certain set of values. Ex. We are seeing this on Hackaday’s open source project

platform

How might we screw this up?

1) Not explaining the value proposition well

2) Speed to market trumps the IP value proposition- we should remember this. Sometimes

patenting isn’t the best use of your time because things are happening so fast and you

want to make it to market.

3) Regulations- be careful of this- regulations aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but we should

have an active role in providing input and engage with regulators very early on.

4) Not being about to create an effective cost model. If there’s an acknowledgement that

there is a publicly available use of technology for the process, then you can better justify

this to the organization.

5) Failing to recognize that huge social change may be required in order for organizations

to embrace open source hardware. Ex. Navy can be generally hesistant and risk averse.

If you want create something new, it can be an incredibly long approval process. In

some cases, it makes sense to acquire something from outside of the organization than

try to create something in-house.

Asking for a Clear Test for Copyright and OSHW

One of the things that makes open source hardware licenses hard is that – unlike software – it isn’t always easy to determine what parts of a product (if any) are covered by copyright. Since traditional open source licenses rely on copyright to make them enforceable, understanding how copyright applies to a piece of open source hardware is the first step in deciding how you might want to license it.

Finding copyright can be complicated because it protects creative and decorative works (including code), but not functional items.  Pieces of open source hardware often combine both creative and functional elements.  This makes it critical to understand how to break out the copyright-protectable parts from the non-copyright-protectable ones.

Unfortunately, today in the United States there are at least ten different and somewhat contradictory tests to guide that process.  That makes it hard for copyright experts to draw the line between copyrightable and non-copyrightable, and essentially impossible for everyone else.

That’s why OSHWA joined the International Costumbers Guild, Shapeways, Formlabs, Printrbot, the Organization for Transformative Works, the American Library Association, The Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College and Research Libraries on a brief written by Public Knowledge in the Supreme Court case Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands.  While the case is nominally about cheerleader uniforms (really), it boils down to a simple question: which test should be used to separate out the copyrightable and non-copyrightable elements of an object that includes both?

The brief does not advocate for a specific test. Instead, it simply urges the Supreme Court to pick a simple, easy to understand test. That clarity alone would be a huge benefit to the entire open source hardware community.

Although we are filing the brief now, the Court’s decision probably won’t be until next year.  Once it comes out, we’ll do our best to explain what it means for the entire open source hardware community.

OSHW Certification mark usage GitHub repository

Hello all — as promised, as part of OSHWA’s work on the upcoming Open Source Hardware Certification program, we’ve created a GitHub repository to host design templates including the mark for different design programs, so that you can more easily put the mark onto circuit boards, packaging, and documentation. The repository also includes a README with guidelines and style suggestions for using the mark in various contexts, sizes, colors, and print technologies (as shown above).

This is a draft, and we intend to continue refining it as a set of recommendations on how to use the mark, and as a style guide if you’re looking for ideas on where and how to incorporate the mark into your designs and documentation.

We’re starting with just PDF and SVG formats, but we are accepting both requests for new template formats and pull requests including new design template files for different design programs.

Announcing October as Open Source Hardware Month!

OSHWA would like to announce Open Source Hardware Month for the month of October 2016. OSHWA is inviting you to participate in events that will add clarity to the open source hardware definition, invite more people to contribute to the movement, and provide education around how to publish a project or product as open source hardware.

Some of OSHWA’s events are highlighted in the White House’s FACT SHEET on page 18: New Commitments in Support of the President’s Nation of Makers Initiative to Kick Off 2016 National Week of Making

Documentation Days

Throughout the month of October, OSHWA will be hosting several documentation days for anyone, individual or company to participate. Documentation Days will be free, community organized events to document your most recent open source hardware project following the OSHW definition and guidelines. This is the perfect time to document that project you just haven’t gotten around to open sourcing. Look for documentation days from OSHWA’s board members and branches in their communities throughout October. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to stay tuned and for dates and locations of our events and look for updates on our blog.

OSHW Certification

OSHWA will launch the first version of the open source hardware certification. This is an open source hardware certifications administered by OSHWA. This certification is designed to benefit at least two parts of the open source hardware community.

First, it benefits purchasers of open source hardware by making it easy to identify truly open source hardware in the marketplace.  Projects and products obtaining certification and displaying the certification logo clearly communicate a commonly agreed upon definition of openness with customers and users.  While certification is not a condition for openness, obtaining certification is a way to make it clear to others that a given project is open source hardware.

Second, the certification benefits creators of open source hardware.  By giving creators specific guidelines, certification allows open source hardware creators to confidently declare their projects and products as open source hardware.  Certification also allows creators to defend that declaration by pointing to compliance with specific criteria defined in the certification process.

Users will self-certify compliance in order to use the certification logos.  Self-certification will give creators the right to use the OSHWA open source hardware certification logo.  As part of the self-certification process, creators will agree to subject themselves to penalties for non-compliance.  OSHWA will be responsible for enforcing those penalties.

Open Hardware Summit

In addition to the documentation days and certification, as always OSHWA will be hosting our annual Open Hardware Summit in Portland, OR on October 7th. Tickets to the Summit are available and we’re currently looking for speakers and sponsors.

Join OSHWA Today!

The Open Source Hardware Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to being the voice of the open hardware community, ensuring that technological knowledge is accessible to everyone, and encouraging the collaborative development of technology that serves education, environmental sustainability, and human welfare. Become a member of OSHWA today!