Automattic drops React over Facebook patent clause risk

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Matt Mullenweg, writing on his blog this week about the decision to drop React in Wordpress projects:

A few weeks ago, Facebook announced they have decided to dig in on their patent clause addition to the React license, even after Apache had said it’s no longer allowed for Apache.org projects. In their words, removing the patent clause would "increase the amount of time and money we have to spend fighting meritless lawsuits."

I'm not judging Facebook or saying they're wrong, it's not my place. They have decided it's right for them — it's their work and they can decide to license it however they wish. I appreciate that they've made their intentions going forward clear.

[..]

We had a many-thousand word announcement talking about how great React is and how we're officially adopting it for WordPress, and encouraging plugins to do the same. I’ve been sitting on that post, hoping that the patent issue would be resolved in a way we were comfortable passing down to our users.

That post won't be published, and instead I'm here to say that the Gutenberg team is going to take a step back and rewrite Gutenberg using a different library. It will likely delay Gutenberg at least a few weeks, and may push the release into next year.

Automattic will also use whatever we choose for Gutenberg to rewrite Calypso — that will take a lot longer, and Automattic still has no issue with the patents clause, but the long-term consistency with core is worth more than a short-term hit to Automattic’s business from a rewrite. Core WordPress updates go out to over a quarter of all websites, having them all inherit the patents clause isn’t something I’m comfortable with.

I think Facebook’s clause is actually clearer than many other approaches companies could take, and Facebook has been one of the better open source contributors out there. But we have a lot of problems to tackle, and convincing the world that Facebook’s patent clause is fine isn’t ours to take on. It’s their fight.

This move makes sense on Automattic's part, a lot of sense. The risk connected to this patent clause is that Facebook is able revoke the patent license if a React user challenges its patents or sues the company for patent infringement — meaning Facebook could bring a patent infringement claim against a person or entity suing it for patent infringement.

This means companies, especially those with large patent portfolios, may well have concerns if they are using open source software which incorporates Facebook’s React framework.

This isn't the type of license you want released into the open source community.




About the Author: Roger Stringer

It's all about finding that Work-Life Balance.

I spend most of my time solving problems for people, and otherwise occupying myself with being a dad, cooking, coding, speaking, learning, writing, reading, and the overall pursuit of life.

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Roger Stringer
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