How this database legal war could be decided by the name given to this license

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Bradley Kuhn, argumentation chap astatine nan Software Freedom Conservancy, claims a California national tribunal has misinterpreted type 3 of GNU Affero General Public License (AGPLv3) by allowing it to beryllium mixed pinch nan Common Clause package license.

Kuhn, who created nan Affero clause successful nan AGPLv1 and co-drafted v3, expects to service arsenic an master witnesser for defendants PureThink and laminitis John Mark Suhy, who were sued by database biz Neo4j successful November 2018, for alleged trademark and title rule violations.

PureThink astatine nan clip distributed database package called ONgDB, which was marketed arsenic an open-source licensed type of Neo4j EE.

Neo4j EE is nether a mixed AGPLv3+Commons Clause license – nan Commons Clause modified nan APGLv3 by adding a regularisation that forbids nan waste of nan software. However, PureThink offered a forked type of nan Neo4j EE database package nether nan APGLv3 alone, having removed nan Commons Clause from its type of nan software.

So Neo4j and its Swedish subsidiary sued PureThink and others claiming that they had violated nan licence position and had infringed Neo4j's trademarks.

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In May 2021, Neo4j won a partial summary judgement [PDF] erstwhile nan judge overseeing nan lawsuit granted nan company's petition for a impermanent injunction based connected its trademark and unfair title claims.

PureThink was enjoined – until nan matter tin beryllium resolved – from "advertising, promoting, representing aliases referring to ONgDB arsenic a free and unfastened root drop-in replacement for Neo4j Enterprise Edition" and making mendacious representations astir ONgDB to customers.

The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently upheld that injunction, and nan lawsuit has continued truthful far.

Among nan remaining disputed issues to beryllium resolved, nan astir important for nan Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) organization is whether Neo4j's concatenation of nan AGPLv3 and Commons Clause is allowed.

Kuhn, successful an expert report [PDF] prepared for nan case, acknowledges that nan AGPLv3 connection tin beryllium re-mixed and utilized successful different license, arsenic agelong arsenic that licence is not called nan AGPLv3. He cites MongoDB's modified AGPLv3 license, referred to arsenic nan Server-Side Public License, arsenic an illustration of really nan AGPLv3 tin beryllium altered into thing that's not a FOSS license.

But if nan licence is referred to arsenic nan AGPLv3, past its Further Restrictions Clause – which allows users of APGLv3 licensed package to region added licensing position – should apply. If nan tribunal accepts that argument, it would beryllium a important reversal: PureThink would beryllium allowed to fork Neo4J EE nether nan AGPLv3.

A proceedings day has yet to beryllium group but respective possibilities successful July, 2023, person been proposed. ®