The University of São Paulo's intent to join Openmoko development

Dave Ball openmoko at
Sat Jul 18 02:16:31 CEST 2009

Hi Maddog,

>> it certainly sounds like an amazing opportunity, almost too good to be true - what's the catch!  :-)
> I hope that you will find there is no "catch".  If you do think there is
> a "catch", please tell me.

Thanks again for bringing this to us, and the detailed responses.  I 
think this is a very positive opportunity, and I hope we are on track to 
the university being in a position to help out with our little projects.

I think Werner is trying to catch up with Dr Zuffo - which in my mind 
would be a very good thing to happen as Werner is definitely the point 
man for the gta02-core effort.

> I certainly see the university as "sponsors" of the project, in the fact
> that it does cost money to run such an SMT line, to do some of the legal
> work, etc.  I would like to find a way to help compensate them for this
> work, to make the project truly self-sustaining.  Dr. Zuffo and I have
> discussed government grants and other funding ideas.  Please see below.


> In order to fund the Openmoko project, I would like to suggest that
> *all* the things that Openmoko made "open" *up to this time*:
> o circuit design
> o case design
> o circuit board layout
> o testing issues.
> o plans for future, etc.
> be completely open and published as before.
> But (for example) the "gerbers" be licensed with a small royalty (1-2
> dollars per phone, with a cap of 500,000 to 1,000,000 USD) only if the
> party will make *over* 5,000-10,000 phones

There are obviously some significant costs associated with developing 
hardware that while HW development took place inside openmoko, were met 
by Sean etal.  You rightly point out that if we're to be successful 
we'll need to find ways to meet those costs.

I'd very much like to hear others thoughts on the matter, but from my 
point of view (and this may be wishful thinking), if there are 
opportunities to fund this work through grants or corporate donations, I 
think this would be preferable to licensing the end results (i.e. the 
gerbers) for production.

In my mind, licensing the gerbers for production introduces restrictions 
on the uses that a recipient may put those designs too - including their 
ability to modify & redistribute those files.  My preference would be to 
encourage that redistribution, through Share-Alike / GPL style licensing 
of all assets.  If a manufacturer wants to adopt the design to a new 
case, add extra buttons, changes components or invests additional 
resources in increasing production yields, the rational for sharing that 
investment with other licenses is less concrete.

Some potential sources for funding might be:
 - phone fabs that would otherwise need to spend significantly more 
money either developing their own designs or buying someone else's design
 - government grants to seed phone production industries, or promote 
telephony freedom
 - universities or other research organisations that can use our devices 
as a platform for learning or their own development.

If gerber licensing is believed to be the only realistic way to generate 
the investment needed for prototype runs etc., I think there would be 
benefit in any such ownership and licensing being conducted through a 
legal vehicle independent of any one individual or organisation (I don't 
know if LSITEC fits this description or not).  Doing so would encourage 
the involvement of multiple organisations, universities or individuals, 
and would allow the team to select the most economic or timely method 
for purchasing or prototype production - through one of our partners or 
external commercial parties if they're able to deliver more effectively.

I don't want my comments to be taken negatively, I think LSI-USP has 
fantastic potential for helping these projects, ensuring the longterm 
viability of our dream and filling in some of the gaps that are apparent 
in our efforts to-date.  I think you're spot on that universities could 
be excellent partners with many shared objectives in what we're trying 
to achieve.

Can we do this without resorting to paid licensing of any of our assets?

I see a scenario where we, with USP, are in a position to generate 
designs that they could take into small scale production (similar to 
OM), selling those handsets to the community at small scale profits, 
using the process for the benefit of their students and generating a 
platform for them to grow in the future - while maintaining the SA style 
licensing.  If it's achievable, this seems the ideal outcome to me.


All the best,

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