TAPR Open Hardware License (OHL)

The TAPR Open Hardware License (OHL) is the only license I am considering that is written specifically for hardware and patent law.  It requires that any derivative works be licensed the same.  It requires distribution of all modified works to include the originals unmodified.


This license restricts what a developer can do with the design.  I am hoping that this product has enough value to developers that they would contribute to the design.  With that premise, I would not like other developers to be limited significantly on how they can use the intellectual property.

I am going to use the MIT license for both hardware and software.  I don’t need patent/copyright protection on this product.  Liability protection is a good thing, I intend this product to be “hackable”. Anything submitted to this blog for product design will be considered under the MIT license unless noted otherwise.

Creative Commons

There are several flavors of the Creative Commons license.  I am going to look at the attribution and attribution share alike licenses.

Both licenses are very similar to the modified BSD license and are more explicit about what rights are conveyed by the license. Both require attribution to the author without endorsement from the author.

The share alike requires any derivative works be licensed with the same license or a compatible one.

For this project, I don’t see any advantage this gives me for the final product.  I hope to build and sell these programmers, but if someone else does for a decent price, I would still benefit.

I have to pick a license or make it public domain or someone else could license or patent it in a way that would restrict me or anybody else from building and selling it.

I am applying common design principals in this project. I do not believe there will be anything unique enough to patent.

Modified BSD license for Hardware

The Modified BSD license is pretty much the same as the MIT license plus it prohibits using the name of the copyright holder for promotion.

I am getting most of my information about these licenses from here.

For myself, I don’t care if someone uses my name for promotion.  This license doesn’t help me over the MIT license.

If someone else submits designs, or software to the project, they may use this license without any conflict with the MIT license.

MIT License applied to hardware

The MIT license gives a lot of freedom to developers to use the intellectual property in any way they want.  This includes manufacturing, selling, and modifying the design. It does not require or restrict attribution. It does give the designer some protection for liability.  This is not compatible with more restrictive licenses.

The reasons I want to design this product include:

  • Teaching about electronics design
  • Create a low cost universal In Circuit Chip programmer

If some company picks up this design and produces it at a fair price then both objectives are met. This would create a well documented hackable device for a very reasonable price.

The MIT license for software and hardware is compatible with my goals.

If I want to integrate some other design with more a restrictive license, I would have to switch to the more restrictive license or separate the other design into a module or in the case of software a library.

I will continue to look at other software and hardware licenses.