Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
[flagged] Your license to use React.js can be revoked if you compete with Facebook (react-etc.net)
97 points by velmu on July 16, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 36 comments

I work on React.

I'm not a lawyer so I won't try to paraphrase the license -- I actually think the wording is pretty simple already -- but to be clear, only the patent grant might terminate if you were to sue Facebook; the BSD license that the code is provided under remains valid regardless.

The author's claim that Google and Microsoft employees are unable to use React is false. I know there are teams at both companies using React and React Native. (It is true that Google was not happy with an older version of the patent grant, but we updated it in response to their feedback.)

The problem with React is its patent rider. React.js comes with a BSD license, but has a patent rider that gives you a license to React's patents. This sounds like a good thing, right? But this rider has a "strong retaliation clause" which says that if you make any sort of patent claim against Facebook this patent license automatically terminates. Which means Facebook can now sue you for patent infringement for using React. You may think this is no worse than not having a patent rider at all. But that's not the case. If there is no patent rider then there is an implicit grant which cannot be revoked.

If you work for a software company and your company has patents then keep in mind that by using React you are giving Facebook a free license to your entire patent portfolio.

More info on weak vs strong retaliation clauses: http://www.rosenlaw.com/lj9.htm

> If there is no patent rider then there is an implicit grant which cannot be revoked.

That contradicts everything I've ever heard on the subject. Can you cite any legal precedent?

The text of the BSD license says "Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided...".

Now, there's a theory that looks like this: The BSD license gives you a license to use a project. If I release some code under a BSD license, but I also patent it, and you download it, start to use it, and I sue you, then you couldn't really use it, could you?

So some people have argued that the "use" part of the BSD license includes all the rights needed to actually use the project, including the right to use any patents the author may have. There are some counterarguments too of course.

However, no court has ever considered the question, and no rulings have been made in either direction. Some day, a court may decide that the BSD license includes an implcit grant...or not. We'll have to wait and see.

Now, a followup question is: What happens if a court decides the BSD license includes an implicit grant, but an explicit grant is also included? Some people think that the explicit grant might replace the implicit grant; others think that it might add to the implicit grant. And if the explicit grant is seen as replacing the implicit grant, and the explicit grant terminates in conditions where the BSD license does not, then the explicit grant actually weakens the BSD license. Alternatively, if the grant is additive (or no implicit grant exists), then the explicit grant does not weaken the BSD license.

Petilon's position is right if: 1) A court rules that the BSD license contains an implicit grant and 2) Further rules that the explicit grant included in the React project replaces and extinguishes the implicit grant included in BSD license. So far neither step has occurred, but they might. In theory. :)

I'm pretty certain some teams at Microsoft are working on react https://blogs.windows.com/buildingapps/2016/04/13/react-nati...

Not for long after the license update

What license update?

The patent rider is a liability and needs be checked by legal. In my company that alone will take months. I don't wan't to delay my project so will use Polymer.

And any non-use of React by Google & Microsoft is almost certainly a competitive thing. Like I doubt Facebook or Microsoft use much Angular but has nothing to so with the licensing.

Just curious, do you know which specific teams at Google are using it or just that there are some?

Not sure, sorry. I know that the Firebase team was interested but I'm not sure if they ended up using it.

The spirit of the actual license appears to be toward specifically preventing patent litigation against Facebook _and contributors and related entities to React itself_. Assigning it to "competing with Facebook" in general seems a little broad.

IANAL, but this could be seen as a needed protection and Facebook playing it safe in the interest of both itself and its open source contributors, kind of saying "if you contribute to, use, or are involved in React, everyone has to play nice and mutually agree not to sue each other over software patents. If you do, you don't get to benefit."

Then again, you could take it the other way, and assume it could be used on the offensive. But I think there would be enough pressures against that type of use. Still, sure, consult a lawyer.

Edit: the last part seems to grant some pretty wide freedoms, protecting your right to use React even if Facebook sues you over a patent unrelated to React, so with that in there, I think it's making it abundantly clear that this clause is about protecting React from patent litigation. Seems solid.

This seems to be a complete misreading of the clause, which focuses on patent claims.

IANAL but the plain-English reading of the license is extremely straightforward: the license is void if the licensee engages in patent litigation against Facebook or React contributors.

That's narrow, clear and (IMO) sensible. This entire article is just pure misinformation.

This is just patent-suit MAD ("If you sue, or counter-sue, us for patent-y stuff, your license to use the patents underlying React is forfeit."), not "You can't use React to do Facebook-y things." There is absolutely nothing in the grant of patent rights that supports the second notion.

Here's some more discussion from a previous HN submission:


This seems like the open source licensing equivalent of mutually assured destruction with nuclear weapons. If Facebook were to aggressively pull the rug out from a competitor because of React licensing, I think the effects for the industry as a whole would be far worse than the threat some startup posed to them.

I was never quite persuaded to tip in so how do devs who did feel about this approach, does not apply no bother? Does apply but won't compete? Does apply and uncertain of future?

"This is the reason why both Google and Microsoft employees are not allowed to use React.js in their work. " is that true ?

Google employees formerly were not allowed to use React but now are after the patent grant was changed (in response to their feedback). I know of several teams at Microsoft using React Native, so I assume there's no concern there either.

okay, that's reassuring, thanks.

Not so quickly. There is no verifiable source for to this. Are there any google team publicly announcing react in their tech stack ?

I guess I'm not verifiable enough? What about Paul Irish?


That title and article is very misleading. A) The React license is a 3 clause BSD license. https://github.com/facebook/react/blob/master/LICENSE It has absolutely no custom restrictions in it. In addition to the license for using react, they B) grant an additional patent related license (https://github.com/facebook/react/blob/master/PATENTS) such that if you use React and React "infringes" on a Facebook patent, Facebook is additionally licensing the patent to you. In this way, not only are you licensed to use the software (React), but you are licensed to use any Facebook patents that React might infringe/use. However, if you decide to sue Facebook for patent infringement (of any kind), they are going to revoke your license to their PATENTS. This only matters if the software (React) actually infringes the PATENTS. Either way, you still technically have a license (3 clause BSD) to React...but, you could be violating a Facebook patent by using it.

It's important to keep in mind that there are two different types of Intellectual Property in view here. Software licenses and patent licenses. Theoretically, you could use some software Y under the BSD license and have some third party X sue you because Y violates a patent (even though you didn't write Y and are only using it). Facebook is being generous IMO by saying both A) you can use our software and B) if we have patents that the software benefits from we also license those to you provided C) you do not sue us for patent violations, in which case we revoke B (but not A).

So, going back to the article, the license to use React would not be revoked and it has nothing to do with competing with React. It is possible that if you sued Facebook for patent infringement AND Facebook claimed that React benefited from it's patents, that Facebook could now sue you for patent infringement b/c you use React.

But, if you sue any big company for patent infringement, they are also going to look at their portfolio of patents to see what you might be infringing and will counter-sue. So, in that case, I don't feel like Facebook is really being contrary here. They are basically saying, "As long as you don't sue us for patent infringement, we promise not to sue you for any patent infringement related to our open source software (including React). By doing this, we are hoping you will take advantage of the software we have put out there in the OSS world and alleviate any patent fears you might have. However, if you choose to sue us for patent infringement, we revoke this promise, and are going to treat you just like any other Joe Schmo."

IMO, Facebook is going out of their way to make it possible for others to benefit from their OSS software by granting not only a generous software license but a related patent license as well. For the article to misconstrue this as a license revocation if you decide to "compete" with them is pretty disingenuous.

>So, in that case, I don't feel like Facebook is really being contrary here. They are basically saying, "As long as you don't sue us for patent infringement, we promise not to sue you for any patent infringement related to our open source software (including React).

So basically if you have this awesome, let's say, middle out compression algorithm patent, and have an interface in react, then they can use your middle out without being sued? (Just trying to clarify what you are saying here..)

If you patent a compression algorithm, and Facebook infringes, and you are also using React, and you sue Facebook over your compression algorithm patent then:

Your license to any patents which Faceboook may or may not have that cover elements of React will terminate. At that point, Facebook may choose to initiate a lawsuit against you over your infringement of whatever React patents (if any) they have.

So if you have (or are planning on obtaining) software patents, the React patent grant may not be very valuable. (Then again, Facebook may not have any patents actually covered by the grant, in which case it's not valuable to anyone.)

So, basically if you plan to compete with facebook territory as a small startup, then it seems to follow that you either

(1) Have patents / use a react alternative, such as vue (note this is annoying since there is no cross-platform native app version of vue ) (2) Don't have patents / protect your intellectual property in other ways (maybe by publishing a public whitepaper or something) / use React / Bust your ass since facebook can likely implement better and faster than any small team.

We were beginning to use React for a few things at my company, but we had our legal counsel review the license and they essentially said to use something else if we could. They weren't really worried about it, but enough so to advise avoiding it.

Sigh. Isn't this why Apache 2 and GPLv3 have patent provisions, so we don't have to reinvent free software licenses for projects. Even if it isn't a big deal, I wouldn't trust a patent license that isn't FSF approved.

Thanks for this discussion. Why invest 100's of hour on a framework which might sue me?. Gonna use angular for now and never look back facebook's libs unless i have no option.

Perhaps they should put out a non-legalease version of the license.

It sure would be nice to get a real lawyers take on this.

I remember there was a ton of hoopla about this when React was originally released - but I thought it was resolved? Am I remembering that right?

If I was going to compete with Facebook I wouldn't use React anyway.

This is really bad, but I'm going to use it to compete with Facebook. I hope they sue me, it would be great PR in Brazil.

Nice PR try for reactjs.


Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact