Defensive Patent License to Launch in February 2014

The Defensive Patent License (DPL) is coming in February 2014.  The DPL is a patent license proposed by the directors of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley as a mechanism to develop a community of patentees that are committed to using patents defensively.  Members of the DPL network automatically license any patents they own or control to the other DPL members and receive in return a license under all of the patents owned or controlled by the other members.  This royalty-free license is an efficient way to establish protective cross-licenses with a large number of other entities without the burden of negotiating numerous individual agreements.

Members of the DPL are still allowed to assert their patents against non-members.  The DPL contains provisions to curtail abuse, including prohibitions against direct copying, creating products for unlicensed third parties, and sublicenses.  Once a member joins the DPL, the benefits of the license are irrevocable, provided that the member does not assert a patent offensively against another member of the DPL or transfer a patent to an entity that could do so.  DPL members may discontinue their participation in the network, prospectively, but patents that were subject to the DPL remain licensed after a DPL member is no longer in the network.

The DPL organizers put forth a number of rationales for the license structure, including:

  • Patents subject to DPL are less likely to be purchased by patent trolls
  • Encourages focus on innovation, through freedom to operate
  • Talented inventors/employees encouraged to participate in the patent process
  • Risk reduction in relation to costly patent litigation—a valuable proposition for startups
  • Flexibility for participants to leave the group if they desire, but doing so creates risk
  • Measures to prevent abusive membership in the DPL network

A detailed discussion of the rationales for DPL were presented in a 2012 paper, found here.  The DPL is celebrating its birthday on November 15, 2013, at the Internet Archive in San Francisco.  There will be a panel discussion from 4:30 – 6 pm and a reception to follow.   All are welcome.

For more information on the DPL, including the current draft of the license, please visit the DPL website.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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