SOUTHFIELD — To address the rapid growth of open source software in consumer electronics, telecommunications, automotive and industrial systems, Brooks Kushman P.C. recently established its Open Sourcing Management practice group. Brooks Kushman’s open sourcing management group helps companies understand and select open source software, and comply with open source software license terms. As a leading intellectual property law firm, Brooks Kushman is uniquely qualified to assist organizations in this area, as the firm can both identify a company’s current and future open source software status, as well as provide practical, legally compliant solutions and future strategies for compliance.
“Open source software license compliance is an issue that affects all industry segments since compliance, which is typically triggered by the distribution of the product, applies to all levels of a product’s supply chain,” said John LeRoy, shareholder, Brooks Kushman. “While the use of OSS provides immense benefits, it also presents obligations to the distributors and risks for failure to comply with those obligations, including claims for copyright infringement. This can get complicated quite quickly, but with the proper understanding and precaution, it’s manageable.”
Brooks Kushman’s open sourcing management practice group consists of a robust team that is highly experienced in electrical engineering and computer software, which is vital to properly understand, evaluate and advise manufacturers and distributors with respect to open source software. Led by Shareholder John LeRoy, the team helps clients identify what open source software is in their products using digital auditing tools, understand what license terms and legal obligations govern the use and distribution of that open source software, and formulate a strategy to comply with the license terms. Brooks Kushman’s practice group will also train software developers on how to select open source projects for inclusion in future projects. Educated selection of open source may reduce license compliance obligations.
As companies from numerous industries recognize the value and cost benefit of using open source software in their products they are calling on Brooks Kushman’s expertise to advise them on license compliance. As a result, the open sourcing management practice group is presenting at numerous conferences across the nation to provide companies with practical guidance and legal counsel on how to develop and distribute products to minimize open source liability, as well as manage open source in purchasing and sales.
“As a partner to our clients, we’re continually monitoring emerging IP-related challenges to ensure we’re properly and comprehensively protecting their product and technology portfolio,” said Mark Cantor, president, Brooks Kushman. “After a thorough assessment of the potential pitfalls of open source software, we saw the clear need to expand our service offering to ensure we’re advising current and potential clients on this rapidly emerging aspect of IP law. The response has been overwhelming, with a great deal of interest from numerous companies and organizations across a wide range of industries.”
According to Brooks Kushman, the use of open source software has become more prevalent as software takes a more prominent role in everyday life. The increased use of open source software is due in part to its numerous advantages, including reducing a product’s time-to-market and decreased development costs. But a proper compliance process, as stated by a given software’s licensing agreement, is critical to ensure a company doesn’t violate the terms and risk liability.
Legal risk associated with use of open source software could include liability for copyright infringement if license terms aren’t followed. Since this liability can be triggered at all levels of a product’s supply chain, it is critical to understand and manage these terms before a product is introduced into the supply chain.
“We’re advising clients that now is the time to get their house in order to maximize the benefits and avoid the risks of open sourcing software,” said LeRoy. “With a thorough understanding of the various terms and requirements, as well as a strategy for proper evaluation and compliance, an OSS-compliant supplier has an advantage over its competitors from a supply chain buyers’ point of view. As our clients’ IP advisors, we want to ensure they’re capitalizing on this advantage.”