Patentleft (also patent left, copyleft-style patent license or open patent) is the practice of licensing patents (especially biological patents) for royalty-free use, on the condition that adopters license related improvements they develop under the same terms. Copyleft-style licensors seek "continuous growth of a universally accessible technology commons" from which they, and others, will benefit.[1][2]

Patentleft is analogous to copyleft, a license which allows distribution of a copyrighted work and derived works, but only under the same terms.


The Biological Innovation for Open Society (BiOS) project implemented a patentleft system to encourage re-contribution and collaborative innovation of their technology. BiOS holds a patented technology for transferring genes in plants, and licenses the technology under the terms that, if a license holder improves the gene transfer tool and patents the improvement, then their improvement must be made available to all the other license holders.[3]

The open patent idea is designed to be practiced by consortia of research-oriented companies[4] and increasingly by standards bodies. These also commonly use open trademark methods to ensure some compliance with a suite of compatibility tests, e.g. Java, X/Open both of which forbid use of the mark by the non-compliant.

On October 12, 2001 the Free Software Foundation and Finite State Machine Labs Inc. (FSMLabs) announced a GPL-compliant open-patent license for FSMLabs' software patent, US 5995745. Titled the Open RTLinux patent license Version 2, it provides for usage of this patent in accordance with the GPL.[5]

See also


  1. Hope, Janet (2008). Biobazaar: The Open Source Revolution and Biotechnology. Harvard University Press. pp. 176–187. doi:10.1007/b62130. ISBN 978-0-674-02635-3.
  2. Open Patent license proposal at
  3. John T. Wilbanks and Thomas J. Wilbanks, "Science, Open Communication and Sustainable Development", 13 April 2010, ""
  4. Cambia Biosciences Initiative
  5. FSF/FSMLabs press release for the RTLinux Open Patent License, October 12, 2001.

Further reading

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