Important: This information doesn’t constitute professional legal advice. Consult with independent legal counsel for information specific to your region or country and circumstances.

This article is part of the Intellectual Property at Wikifactory series, in which we explore different types of intellectual property and how they can be part of your Wikifactory projects.

What is Open Source?

Open Source refers to something people can modify and share because its design or documentation is publicly accessible.

Open source projects, products, or initiatives embrace and celebrate principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, and community-oriented development.

On Wikifactory, we support open hardware, also known as open source hardware. As it happens with open source, which is usually related to software, the open hardware projects can be studied, modified and distributed by anyone. The main difference is that open hardware relates to physical objects, no matter the size, shape or function.

Whereas the legal concepts are the same for any type of open source product whether we are talking about hardware or software it relies on the principles of sharing and developing without the usual constraints imposed by intellectual property rights to that process.

Benefits of Open Source

The number of open source initiatives has increased during the last years for a number of reasons, including:

  • Control: Users and collaborators can examine the project and modify parts they don't use and change its function to do something different.
  • Learning: Open Source projects are great educational resources, as their accessibility allows users to learn how it was made or how a device works.
  • Security: Some people may prefer open source initiatives as they can view and modify any components.
  • Stability: Many users prefer open source initiatives to proprietary ones for long-term projects. Users relying on its content can be sure the content of an open source project won't disappear if the original creators stop working on it.
  • Community: Open source initiatives inspire whole communities of designers, engineers and creative problem solvers around the planet. The users aren't just followed, as they can also test, improve, promote and produce the project they love.

Open Source at Wikifactory

There are many types of open source licenses, and on Wikifactory we support some of the most popular ones.

On a more general level we also believe that open source will contribute to the development of a more creative and sustainable future of hardware which is why we strongly encourage you to explore opportunities to use open source.

Learn more about how to use open source licenses on your project and also the differences between them.

Open Source License Infringement

If you believe that there's content on Wikifactory that infringes your content's open source licenses, please check our article on how to Report Intellectual Property infringement.

FAQ: Are all open source projects free?

No. Just as 'normal' licenses there are certain restrictions related to using open source licensed products. There are different types of open source licenses and each one includes different restrictions. Some of them allow for commercial use of the project, while others only allow personal use. However, most open source licenses will be based on the basic principles of free sharing, modification and use.

Check each project's license and contact the original project creator in case of doubt. Learn more about how to use open source licenses on your project and also the differences between them.

FAQ: Can I patent an open source design?

Open source licenses are designed to spread by maximizing the ease of distribution and minimizing the friction caused by normal license restrictions, in principle this conflicts with the concept of a patent which gives its owner the right to exclude others from making, using and selling a claimed invention. Both copyright and patent laws apply to open hardware. The patentability of a design depends on local regulations, with special attention to prior art. Contact your closest patent office for more information.

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