1. Why does the policy require unanimous approval by the Board of new releases of the Compliant Base Implementation that include Major Modifications?
The Bylaws in Section 2.13 Rights in Intellectual Property requires unanimous approval of any change to the organization’s policies that will have an impact on any aspect of the Alliance’s intellectual property governance. The Board’s unanimous approval of the evolution of the Compliant Base Implementation is consistent with this aspect of the Bylaws and the expectations of the Members.
2. How does the patent Pledge termination provision benefit the broader community?
The patent Pledge is made by a Contributor based on its Contributions. That Pledge benefits anyone who uses or distributes a Compliant Base Implementation. The Contributor has pledged not to assert its Pledged Patent Claims, claims practiced in the code that has been contributed to the Alliance, against anyone who uses or distributes a Compliant Base Implementation. Anyone who is using or distributing a Compliant Base Implementation is a Pledge Recipient, a beneficiary of the pledge made by the Contributor.
The termination provision operates to provide a strong disincentive to anyone who benefits from the Pledges made by the Contributors against assertion of a patent claim against any other beneficiary of the Pledge – i.e. anyone else that is using or distributing a Compliant Base Implementation. If anyone is a plaintiff in a lawsuit that asserts a patent against anyone based on Alliance Code in a Compliant Base Implementation, every Pledging Entity may revoke their Pledge and assert their Pledged Patent Claims against the plaintiff or any Affiliate of the plaintiff. The promise not to assert the Pledged Patent Claims ends entirely with respect to the plaintiff and its Affiliates.
3. How does the Permitted Termination work in practice?
It is actually simple. You may lose the benefit of the Contributor’s Pledges if you file a Lawsuit alleging patent infringement by a Compliant Base Implementation and other Pledging Entities terminate their pledge to you. After such a patent assertion, it is as though the Pledges were never made to you.
But if you file a Lawsuit or other legal proceeding such as a counter claim against someone who has lost the benefit of your Pledge due to their patent assertion, you do not lose the benefit of the Contributor’s Pledges. In this situation, you are permitted to terminate your Pledge without suffering the loss of the Pledges of others.
4. Why does the IP Policy distinguish between Minor Modifications and Major Modifications?
The distinction is helpful for two reasons. The first is to ensure that the Board approval process for new releases of the Compliant Base Implementation does not impede the timely release of bug fixes or other minor updates. The policy provides for the timely release of important updates without undermining confidence in the Board’s required review process. Updates can be released but do not become a part of the Compliant Base Implementation until they are approved as part of the next Major Release. Thus changes cannot evade review by being implemented as a Minor Modification.
The other use of the term Minor Modification works to assure fairness for everyone who implements a Compliance Base Implementation. Minor Modifications to the Alliance Code that is released for the Compliant Base Implementation may be made by anyone without losing the benefits afforded to a Compliant Base Implementation. An implementer that needs to make platform specific changes or optimizations is not put at a disadvantage vis-à-vis another implementer for which the Alliance Code is already optimized without any such Minor Modifications. The right to make Major Modifications that interfere in any way with compatibility is not similarly assured.
5. Is a bug-fix release of an approved Compliant Base Implementation (CBI) release also protected by the patent non-assertion pledge?
Yes. Bug fixes that are categorized as Minor Modifications and do not need to go through a review period for Board approval. The intent is to assure that bug fixes can be released in a timely manner. Bug fixes will not include any new features or functionality not already included in an approved Compliant Base Implementation release. Such “bug-fix” releases include the already approved “Compliant Base Implementation” release plus the new bug fixes as “Minor Modifications.” The release of a bug fix does not alter the approval of the previously approved CBI release.
6. What is the relationship between these FAQs and the Alliance’s Bylaws, adopted policies and any other formally enacted governing documents?
The language of an adopted policy, such as the IP Policy, controls in the event of any conflict with the more informal language used in these FAQs. These FAQs are intended as a helpful guide in your review of the text and are not intended to alter or add to the policy in any way. We encourage a careful reading of the text with special attention to the defined terms. Where terms are capitalized in these FAQs, you will find the definitions for such terms in the IP Policy itself.