A unique licence

Published : May 12, 2001 00:00 IST

THE Simputer's licensing model, the Simputer General Purpose Licence (SGPL), while influenced by the Free Software Movement's General Public Licence, is unique in that its purview extends to hardware as well. The Simputer, and all further modifications on its hardware or in other "Simputerised" applications, are protected from patents by this innovative and simply articulated set of licensing rules. "The SGPL," said Rahul Matthen, the Simputer Trust's legal counsel who has been involved with the Simputer Project from its inception, "is a protection model that is in keeping with the Simputer Trust's philosophy. It assures proliferation of the hardware and software, it is a profitable business model, standards are maintained, it does not permit monopoly, innovation is encouraged, and it ensures that no one patent the Simputer."

Any individual or company can download the Simputer Specifications (the blueprint) free of cost from the website, www.simputer.org This would bind the individual or company to the SGPL. In order to encourage innovation and commercial exploitation of the product the SGPL gives the individual or company a one year period during which they can sell the Simputer or a Simputer-derived product. "An entrepreneur is not required to disclose the changes he has made in the Simputer's Specifications he has made and can sell his product at any price for a 12-month period," Matthen said. "Once that period lapses disclosure is required, and the prices of the Simputer-derived product will fall as others may start manufacturing it." The Simputer itself is trade-marked and can only be used with the permission of the Trust.

The commercialisation of the Specifications, whether as a Simputer or a Simputerised product, requires a one-time fee of $25,000 in developing countries and $250,000 in developed countries. "The SGPL will ensure that the Simputer reaches those sections of people who would not normally have had access to it," Matthen said.

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