Legal Issues of Open Source Hardware

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On 11th November 2022, the workshop “Legal Issues of Open Source Hardware” of the cooperation partner Bucerius Law School took place at Fab City Haus. Legal issues around the topic of Open Source Hardware (OSH) in the areas of IP rights, licenses and liability were discussed. Practitioners from the community were introduced to legal guidelines for dealing with open source hardware on these topics by Felix Tann, Fabian Flüchter and Lasse Burmeister.   

The lecture on IP presented various IP rights and explained how they influence the freedom to use and create open source hardware solutions.

The license part dealt with the license as a permission to use and how this is important for the open character of open source hardware. Based on this, some licensing strategies were explained which can favor or hinder the spread of open source hardware and for which business models they are relevant in the open source hardware context. In this context, common open source hardware licenses were analyzed.  

In the liability section, it was explained how the multi-person relationship, which is in the nature of the value chain in open source hardware, affects the distribution of liability. In addition to some basics of German liability law, the liability of the manufacturer of open source hardware end products in particular was explained and, based on this, some liability scenarios for designers were presented.

In a subsequent joint discussion, the presentations were then discussed in greater depth and feedback from the practitioners was obtained.  

The team would like to thank the participants for their active participation in the event and for the many interesting questions and comments. Once again, it became clear that legal issues are a central topic for the dissemination of open source hardware.   

Bucerius Law School and its Center for Transnational IP, Media and Technology Law and Policy are cooperation partners in the Fab City research project funded by the Center for Digitization and Technology Research of the German Armed Forces (  

 Author: Lasse Burmeister