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June 30, 2021

Technology Law & Policy Clinic Student Attorneys Assist the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) on Intellectual Property Matters

Technology Law & Policy Clinic

This post is part of a series exploring the Clinic’s work during the 2020-21 year

During the Spring 2021 Semester, two student attorneys in the Advanced Technology Law and Policy (TLP) Clinic at NYU Law—Arthi Naini (’22) and David Wechsler (’21)—represented the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA) and counseled the organization on intellectual property matters.

OSHWA exists to disseminate information to the open source hardware community (and to the public at large) on how to build, modify, and repair all kinds of different technologies. OSHWA and the broader open source hardware community believe in democratizing science, engineering, invention, and manufacturing. For example, OSHWA and the wider open source hardware community served an important role during the COVID-19 pandemic in teaching people around the world how to make otherwise scarce personal protective equipment (PPE) at low cost and from simple, readily accessible supplies.

In the first component of the TLP Clinic’s project with OSHWA, Naini and Wechsler advised OSHWA on updates to its open source hardware certification program. OSHWA maintains this program for individuals, companies, and nonprofits that want to be sure that their products comply with open source best practices—and want to market their products as compliant. The student attorneys helped OSHWA revise its educational materials to account for recent technological and legal changes that affect open source licensing, including an important new open source hardware license, the CERN OHL 2.0 license.

In a second piece of work with OSHWA, Wechsler (with support from Naini) co-wrote a blog post with Michael Weinberg, a member of OSHWA’s board of directors. Wechsler and Weinberg’s post, published in a leading blog on patent law and policy, PatentlyO, explained the importance of open source hardware and its community of innovators. The post was sparked by a recent Federal Circuit decision, GlaxoSmithKline v. Teva, that suggested an interpretation of patent law that could be detrimental to OSHWA, its members, and the broader open source community. Wechsler and Weinberg wrote that the Federal Circuit should carefully consider the unique needs of the open source hardware community in its future decisions.

TLP Clinic Deputy Director Christopher Morten supervised this project.