Open source legal expert Eben Moglen’s Software Freedom Law Center has given the OpenDocument Format its stamp of approval, declaring the office productivity format free from legal encumbrances.
Set up in February 2005 by Moglen, who is professor of law and legal history at Columbia Law School and general counsel for the Free Software Foundation, the SFLC provides legal services related to free and open source software.
The SFLC has published its opinion on ODF, it said, in response to concerns among some clients that there may be legal barriers, and particularly patent problems, related to implementing ODF in free and open source software.
A number of our clients asked us to determine whether ODF is truly free of patent, copyright, and trademark encumbrances. We looked into the issue, and are confident that developers can use ODF in free software, said James Vasile, SFLC legal counsel.
Specifically, the SFLC looked at the Sun Microsystems Inc’s patent licensing and the intellectual property rights terms used by the Oasis standards group. Sun owns StarOffice, the open source OpenOffice.org version of which was the starting point for ODF, which was standardized via Oasis.
Having examined the terms, Moglen has declared both the Oasis patent policy and Sun’s license terms compatible with free and open source licenses, specifically the FSF’s GNU GPL and the Apache Software Foundation’s Apache License.