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Simputer Licensing

The system software of the Simputer, since it is Linux based is under GPL. We have been working on a license similar to the GPL, but applicable to hardware. We realised, after considerable discussions, that hardware has significant differences that precludes the possibility of using a simple extension of the software GPL. We now have the first draft of the Simputer General Public License (SGPL) that we believe to be a practicable license which at the same time facilitates the rapid spread of Simputers.

The SGPL has been reviewed further and the new version is now ready. The Simputer General Public License

The hardware specifications of the Simputer can be downloaded only under SGPL. The SGPL permits anyone to build devices out of the downloaded specification. However, once a product is ready for commercialisation, one of two possible licenses need to be obtained from the Simputer Trust. These are

The Simputer manufacturing License referes to a Core Simputer Specification, a functional description of the Simputer to be specified by the Simputer Trust and which evolves with the development of the Simputer. The first version of the Core Simputer Specification will be posted here soon.

We invite your comments on the SGPL. The license, clearly modeled after GPL, and the two manufacturing licenses were drafted by Rahul Matthan, the legal counsel of the Simputer Trust. For a non-legalese presentation by our counsel of these licenses, see the SGPL presentation.

Highlights of SGPL

Here is a quick highlight of SGPL written by one of the trustees (V Vinay): this is only a summary and could be innacurate at some places:

  • Any individual or company can download the hardware specification, PCB layout details, the bill of materials, etc., henceforth called "Specifications" free of charge. The act of doing so binds the individual or company to the SGPL.
  • Any derivative work has to come back to the Trust to allow for further dissemination. To allow the commercial exploitation of the derived work, a one year delay in putting back the derived work is permitted. This does not however preclude others from independently engineering a similar derivative work during this period.
  • Any derivative work is subsumed as Specifications and hence, they are also governed by this same license.
  • The word "Simputer(TM)" is trademarked and cannot be used without the permission of the Trust. If an individual or company is interested in using the word "Simputer(TM)" in conjunction with their products, they can do so only if their product conforms to certain rules that will be put up on the trust website (and which may undergo periodic revision). The product has to provide a visual clue to attest it being a Simputer by way of displaying a logo issued by the Trust.
  • While recognizing the possibility of using the Specifications in application other than as a Simputer, the License deems that such derived work be called "Simputerized" products. The product description should state that the product is "Simputerized" and provide a visual clue on the product by way of displaying a logo issued by the Trust.
  • Any commercial exploitation of the Specifications (whether Simputer or Simputerized) involves a nominal one time payment to the Trust. The payment will be $25,000 for developing countries and $250,000 for developed countries.


While the SGPL is inspired by GNU GPL, it does not in any way imply endorsement by the Free Software Foundation. For more on this, follow this link.

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