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|Part of the common law series|
|Estates in land|
|Future use control|
|Other common law areas|
|Licensing of patents|
|Clauses in patent licenses|
The verb license or grant license means to give permission. The noun license (American English) or licence (British English, Indian English, Canadian English, Australian English, New Zealand English, South African English) refers to that permission as well as to the document recording that permission.
A license may be granted by a party ("licensor") to another party ("licensee") as an element of an agreement between those parties. A shorthand definition of a license is "an authorization (by the licensor) to use the licensed material (by the licensee)."
In particular, a license may be issued by authorities, to allow an activity that would otherwise be forbidden. It may require paying a fee and/or proving a capability. The requirement may also serve to keep the authorities informed on a type of activity, and to give them the opportunity to set conditions and limitations.
A licensor may grant a license under intellectual property laws to authorize a use (such as copying software or using a (patented) invention) to a licensee, sparing the licensee from a claim of infringement brought by the licensor. A license under intellectual property commonly has several components beyond the grant itself, including a term, territory, renewal provisions, and other limitations deemed vital to the licensor.
Term: many licenses are valid for a particular length of time. This protects the licensor should the value of the license increase, or market conditions change. It also preserves enforceability by ensuring that no license extends beyond the term of the agreement.
Territory: a license may stipulate what territory the rights pertain to. For example, a license with a territory limited to "North America" (Mexico/United States/Canada) would not permit a licensee any protection from actions for use in Japan.
A shorthand definition of license is "a promise by the licensor not to sue the licensee." That means without a license any use or exploitation of intellectual property by a third party would amount to copying or infringement. Such copying would be improper and could, by using the legal system, be stopped if the intellectual property owner wanted to do so.
It is undeniable that intellectual property licensing plays a major role in today's business and economy. Business practices such as franchising, technology transfer, publication and character merchandising entirely depend on the licensing of intellectual property. Licensing has been recognised as an independent branch of law. It is born out of the interplay of the doctrine of contract and the principles of intellectual property.
Mass distributed software is used by individuals on personal computers under license from the developer of that software. Such license is typically included in a more extensive end-user license agreement (EULA) entered into upon the installation of that software on a computer. Typically, a license is associated with a unique code, that when approved grants the end user access to the software in question.
Under a typical end-user license agreement, the user may install the software on a limited number of computers.
The enforceability of end-user license agreements is sometimes questioned.
A licensor may grant permission to a licensee to distribute products under a trademark. With such a license, the licensee may use the trademark without fear of a claim of trademark infringement by the licensor. The assignment of a license often depends on specific contractual terms. The most common terms are, that a license is only applicable for a particular geographic region, just for a certain period of time or merely for a stage in the value chain. Moreover there are different types of fees within the trademark and brand licensing. The first form demands a fee independent of sales and profits, the second type of license fee is dependent on the productivity of the licensee.
A licensor may grant a permission to a licensee to copy and distribute copyrighted works such as "art" (e.g., Thomas Kinkade's painting "Dawn in Los Gatos") and characters (e.g., Mickey Mouse). With such license, a licensee need not fear a claim of copyright infringement brought by the copyright owner.
A license is an academic degree. Originally, in order to teach at a university, one needed this degree which, according to its title, gave the bearer a license to teach. The name survived despite the fact that nowadays a doctorate is typically needed in order to teach at a university. A person who holds a license is called a licentiate.
In Sweden, Finland, and in some other European university systems, a license or 'Licentiate' is a postgraduate degree between the master's degree and the doctorate. The Licentiate is a popular choice in those countries where a full doctoral degree would take five or more years to achieve.
In some other major countries, such as France, Belgium or Poland, a license is achieved before the master's degree (it takes 3 years of studies to become licentiate and 2 additional years to become Master) in France, while in Belgium the license takes 4 years while the master itself takes 2 more years. In Switzerland, a license is a 4-year degree then there is a DEA degree which is equivalent to the Master's degree. In Portugal, before the Bologna process, students would become licentiates after 5 years of studies (4 years in particular cases like Marketing, Management, etc.; and 6 years for Medicine). However, since the adoption of the Bologna Process engineering degrees in Portugal were changed from a 5 year license to a 3 year license followed by 2 years for the MSc: Not having the MSc does not confer accreditation by the Ordem dos Engenheiros.
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