Do open-source foundations have oodles and piles of cash lying around for patent trolls to scoop up?

Are open-source softwares licensed under the GPL not immune to patent trolls since there is no profit motive?

2 Answers 2


One directly infringes a patent by making, selling, offering for sale, importing or using it. An open source foundation generally does not do these things. But it likely does encourage others to make, use, etc. technology that it essentially distributes. That can be an indirect infringement classed as contributory infringement or active inducement of infringement.


Fairly sure that the OSS "foundations" are all non-profit organisations that collect funds to pay for site hosting and put extra money into paying developers for their time, this would leave little for any troll to collect.

Note that GPLv3 section 11 specifies that a contributor grants a royalty-free patent license which should prevent a patent troll from suing.

  • 3
    The patent license in the GPL is not really relevant here. In this case, the patent holder (i.e., troll) has no relation to the copyrighted code licensed under the GPL. The patent holder is claiming that the code written by someone else infringes on a patented system. The author of the copyrighted work does not hold the relevant patent and so cannot license it.
    – apsillers
    Oct 8, 2019 at 9:54
  • @apsillers The GPL states that the contributor grants the patent license, making the person submitting the infringing code (should be) the target of the troll, not the foundation owning the project. The foundation received the contribution in good faith that it was not patent infringing.
    – sambler
    Oct 9, 2019 at 8:34
  • @sambler The patent troll will target whoever is distributing the code and if it is a troll obviously it will target whoever is more likely to pay a settlement.
    – Brandin
    Oct 9, 2019 at 14:32
  • What if the programmer who contributed the code had no idea there was a patent that could apply? Doesn't patent infringement require an intention to infringe for the patent holder or troll to collect?
    – eonnu
    Oct 10, 2019 at 2:11
  • Also, doesn't this idea that the author could be liable militate for all open source software to be anonymously written and put into the public domain?
    – eonnu
    Oct 10, 2019 at 2:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.