Legal implications of using React.js on future projects

As of this post, one of the top post on Hacker News is on a topic regarding the legal implications of developers utilizing React.js in their development of web applications.

One of the HN users, briandear, tried to break it down:

So if I understand correctly, if I were to use React for a marketing website about my patented system for and Facebook steals/uses that extremely valuable invention, I can’t sue Facebook by virtue of using React?

Obviously, if that were to happen, you’d simply have to stop using React or else you’d get countersued for using React without a license right?

Why would anyone use React ever if that’s how it works? It feels like a payday loan – React makes it “easy” right now, but if your business is built dependent on React, you could pay a serious price later in exchange for “right now” convenience. It makes a strong case for Ember or Glimmer or any of the other front-end systems not tied to Facebook. Imagine a React “Native” app around which your business is based – you’d have to rewrite the entire thing of Facebook were to start using some patented aspect of your business.

Perhaps I am misinformed, but it seems absolutely bonkers to essentially indemnify Facebook from patent infringement just by virtue of using React somewhere in your business.

Imagine if Apple did this: if you release on the App Store using Xcode, you can’t sue us for any patent infringement ever or we’ll sue you for using Xcode illegally.

Is my assessment correct? Is React that good to risk such a situation? Facebook could sit back and watch a company using React develop something amazing, then Facebook could steal it and you’d have no recourse but to stop using React. Meanwhile, while you are rebuilding your application, you lose all your customers, but if you don’t rebuild your application, Facebook can legally take your invention and crush you in the market. Either way, you lose – simply because a few developers on the team were insistent on React’s greatness. If I were a VC, I’d be incredibly wary about supporting a company using React for their primary application…

And the response from another user, khuey:

Yes, your understanding is largely correct. To be clear, you can still sue Facebook for stealing your patented invention, but then your grant to any patents that your use of React infringes would expire and Facebook could countersue over that. Facebook legal’s response to this concern has been largely obfuscation and “trust us” which is not encouraging. They did change the patent grant two years ago to allow you to assert patent claims against Facebook without losing the grant if Facebook sues you first, but that’s of limited utility.

From someone who is learning Phoenix, and was going to eventually dive into React.js, this took me back and has me reconsidering. Not to say that everything I create with React.js would be of extreme value, but it is good to be aware, which is one of the reasons why I am posting this here. Moreover, I wanted to hear the thoughts from people in the elixirforum community.


Ouch… I am using React :frowning:

Thanks for the information, I will reconsider too

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Bad news, we are already migrating everything to elm anyway.


Could someone explain to me why everyone is upset? Very few of the projects we use come with explicit patent grants Apache licensed stuff excluded. Erlang patent grant is revocable at will vs React patent grant can only be revoked if you actually sue FB. Looking at alternatives:
Angular is MIT licensed no patent grants
Vue MIT licensed no patent grants
Ember MIT licensed no patent grants
Elm BSD licensed no patent grants

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Erlang/OTP and Elixir are licensed under the terms of the Apache License 2.0.
The patent grant in this license is irrevocable except when you engage in litigation against one of the authors concerning a patent that is incorporated in the software that you’ve licensed.

Say, you’re using Elixir to build an app and then decide to sue Plataformatec or any other authors of Elixir because you think you have a patent that is being violated by Elixir, then - and only then - the patent grant is revoked.

This is quite different from React’s license where not only will your patent grant be revoked if you sue Facebook over any patent - regardless of whether it is part of React or not. You will also lose the right to use React in any way since the actual license to the software also gets revoked. This means that then you’re not just violating their patents but also their copyright.

In fact, the patent grant in the Apache 2.0 license or the GPLv3 is a good thing because otherwise a company might actually be able to sue you over patented concepts they’ve incorporated into code that they’ve then open-sourced without a patent grant.


4 Likes Original license was this IANAL but weather or not there are any potential issues with portions of code and some Ericsson patents who knows. In any case all other major FE frameworks come with no patent grants at all so we can start complaining there :slight_smile:

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Ericsson re-licensed Erlang/OTP in 2015. The EPL is now obsolete (unless you’re using OTP versions older than 18.0).


Good for us I guess one less thing to worry about :slight_smile: My point that no other major FE framework comes with patent grants stands :slight_smile:

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Standing on the shoulder of giants to get big and then when you get big enough yourself, you take a two-phase shit on everyone else. You just got Zuckered!


The Apache 2.0 patent grants is the only real reason to use the Apache license.

And keep in mind that Facebook is in the process of relicensing under Apache 2.0 nearly all their project after the Apache foundation asked all its project to stop using Facebook stuff under BSD+ patents.

So that will not be a problem on the long run. But as usual when you sign for a contract (here a license) have at least your legal team or lawyer read it. And if you do not have a lawyer that knows copyright and software license + patents yet on your contact list, time to find one. Really. It does matter.

But at least, read the license and the special clause yourself. Github shows the main license now, so a MIT, Apache or GPL you do not have to dive into if you read it once and read the explanation of it in the FSF website (there are a couple of other places with analysis of them). I especially advise (for an example

But please read the special clause. Copyright and OSS Licenses are a hack of the legal system but they are the only reason we were able to build the whole field of IT. We may be in a post licence world in a lot of ways, but our copyright is still our most powerful tool as devs.


Admittedly drive by comment…

Any issues with GraphQL licensing? It’s another tool that seems to be growing in adoption within the community.

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I wonder if their intent was to add a legal hurdle for patent trolls trying to sue them. If that’s the case, I think that’s really funny because I imagine a lot of NPEs (non-practicing entities) have unwittingly agreed to this license.

It’s still unfortunate that it affects other developers who may have a legitimate claim to a patent.

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Here’s my take…