Open Source Hardware Association

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= a non-profit organization working to spread the love of Open Source Hardware



"Some proposed purposes this organization aims to do are as follows:

(1) Educate individuals and the general public about Open Source Hardware.

(2) Organize the Open Source Hardware movement around shared values and principles.

(3) Provide information and advice on best practices and standards for Open Source Hardware.

(4) Encourage collaborative learning, knowledge exchange, and social cohesion through conferences and other events focused on Open Source Hardware.

(5) Promote the use and development of Open Source Hardware, including to encourage educational and economic development.

(6) Collect, compile and publish data on the Open Source Hardware movement.

(7) Conduct any and all lawful activities which may be useful in accomplishing the foregoing purposes." (


Interview 2014 with President Gabriela Levine

"[Simone Cicero:] What are the overall plans for OSHWA in 2014 – 2015 under your presidency?

[GL]First of all, work on standardization. The definition states what is Open Hardware, but I believe that there needs to be more documentation for people to turn to in order to know HOW to release their work. What are the best ways to release hardware and what are the standards for documentation? There is a lot of work happening on this (especially by Catarina, David Mellis, and Limor Fried). See OSHWA’s “best practices” and Adafruit’s “Open Source Hardware Overview”.

I think of OSHWA’s initiatives is to produce some available documents, like a standard toolkit for releasing open source hardware, that can help companies and individuals understand some of the confusion and loose definitions. One example might be a “laundry list” that can allow companies producing products to document all of the hardware components for that product and how they are licensed.

OSHWA is increasing its public presence, in order to educate people and companies about the fact that there is indeed the option of open source hardware, to clear up some confusion surrounding the definition, to promote OSHWA as a resource for providing support and education and to represent the community. This public awareness will come from planned workshops, educational events, and an international summit this year.

OSHWA will continue to work together and with some advice from attorneys who are open to discussing some of the legal options and licenses available, compile some clarifying documents that can help companies and individual see what some legal options are available for producing and distributing open source hardware.

OSHWA also is in the planning to continue to conduct business surveys to provide data about open source hardware companies, as well as lead more educational programs and summits, possibly including an Open Manufacturing Summit." (

Interview 2012

Of Alicia Gibb, president, conducted by Simone Cicero for OpenPicus, mid-2012:

"Alicia, what are the latest progresses on the OSHWA project?

[Alicia Gibb] We have just finished up writing our bylaws and are about to enter into the specifics of membership. We got a lot of advice from the community on our mailing list about membership levels so we intend to incorporate that feedback. But before we can open membership, we need a bank account, which we are halfway through the process of opening. After that we will be tackling the IRS documentation, which I’ve heard can take a couple years to get non-profit status.

[openpicus] Wow, it seems like a quite long and complex process, I’m sure it’s worth for such an important Mission. Indeed, many often appeal to open hardware as a form of social good: what does it mean in terms of a more equitable profiteering chain?

[Alicia Gibb] I think these two things are related, but I’m going to explain them one at a time. Open source hardware is a social good in its definition alone. By definition, open hardware is open to learn from, and teach from among other things. The social good of open hardware comes in another form of giving people the empowerment and the right to democratize their hardware - devices, gadgets, 3D prints, etc., which Dr. Eric von Hippel has written a great deal about.

Opening hardware helps society learn about the technology they use, helps innovation happen at a natural pace, and helps make creations better with crowd sourcing solutions. All of that makes civilization stronger. It’s also more or less a form of evolution for hardware. When hardware is opened to be derived from, anyone can make the innovation better, faster, cheaper, or stronger, among other things. In this sense, the best open hardware wins the market.

But it also lets more individuals share the profit chain by creating those same similar objects and diversifying the field of distributors that carry it. Many innovations derived from open hardware are a personalization - be it adding a new function or creating a new form factor - on the long tail of devices, meaning millions of people may not be interested in your particular personalization, but hundreds of thousands are - and that’s enough to make a living. And adding up 10 different styles of personalizations on the same original innovation may end up being interesting to millions of people - all stemming from one piece of open source hardware.

The other social good open source hardware can boast is helping people in need. One specific project that relied on open source hardware as its basis to be created was a Geiger counter created in the wake of the Japanese tsunami and power plant accident. This was created for people to measure the radiation in their areas, data that was without doubt a social good. Rather than keeping the information of how to build a simple Geiger counter to himself, the creator of this product, Shigeru Kobayashi, shared the information of how to build the device as well as a map of all communally collected data. Other people in turn built this device and helped collect and share data. Shigeru is a true hero in the open source hardware community.

[openpicus] People often think of Open Hardware such as boards and circuitry but: what's the real future? I mean, we know Open Source Ecology obviously, but is it possible to think, as it was for Open Source Software, that Open Source Hardware will largely power wealth production infrastructures - as OSS is now the very backbone of the Internet?

[Alicia Gibb] The Open Source Hardware community started out of the electronics industry, but we’ve already seen it move into mechanical engineering largely with 3D printing, and arguably it has its roots in mechanics as cars and machinery used to be reverse engineered by observing how they were put together - but this was because they were on the human readable scale of gears and parts rather than what we have today (the common computer being not on the human readable scale). I think the future lies within various fields including fashion, medicine, and once again cars. I think Open Source Hardware has already created production infrastructures with such sustainable companies as Adafruit, SparkFun, and Makerbot. At OSHWA, we’re hoping to educate the public about the benefits of open hardware so that it may broaden into new fields and be used in unexpected places.


[openPicus] What kind of support will OSHWA give to people dealing with open source hardware are you thinking of IPR or licensing, legal support? other forms?

[Alicia Gibb] In a recent survey we found that 60% of the open hardware community did not use a license, partly because they felt they didn’t have enough money to go to court anyway and partly for other reasons. People are however asking for a best practices set of standards, which will be communal but have no legal standing. Perhaps down the road there will be a need for licensing assistance and legal work, but for now we’re working on educating people and building structure rather than delve into legal conversations.

[openPicus] What are some inspiring examples of open hardware projects that are making a difference in real world with tangible projects?

[Alicia Gibb] The example I used of the Geiger counter used to aid people in Japan is inspiring for the case of open source hardware used for humanitarian purposes. But the other type of open hardware I find inspiring is the kind of hardware that is accessible to younger and younger children, like the MaKey MaKey board. The younger we can get kids interested in hardware hacking, the more innovative our future will be!" (


from, A Brief History of Open Source Hardware Organizations and Definitions:

"As the 2011 Summit came to a close, it became apparent that an organization was needed to house the Summit websites, financials, and general business. Gibb held a meeting at NYC Resistor and brought in several open source hardware companies to determine whether a business league or an educational non-profit would be more appropriate. Together the group chose a 501(c)3 educational non-profit and in the interest of the community, the role of OSHWA was expanded to take on other activities in open source hardware, such as housing the definition in multiple languages, providing information about standards, assisting the setup of international branches, educating the general public on what open source hardware is, collecting and publishing metrics on the movement, and encouraging projects to be open for the areas of education and economic development. The organization is intended to be built for the community by the community with a rotation of board members and leaders every two years.

The first task of OSHWA aside from setting up the infrastructure of the organization, was defending the open source hardware community mark (also know as the OSHW or gear logo), previously selected by community vote. An email from the President of the OSI was sent to Gibb informing her of infringement of the OSI logo and asking for immediate removal. OSHWA worked with the community to reach an agreement with OSI stating that the logos are used in different fields and thus different enough to avoid confusion between the two and infringement of OSI’s trademark. OSHWA further chose not to trademark the open source hardware community mark because it’s available for use to anyone whose products followed the definition and had existed in that format for 3 years.

OSHWA was established as an organization in June of 2012 in Delaware and filed for tax exemption status in July of 2013. OSHWA’s purposes are as follows: to organize conferences and events, educate the general public about open source hardware and its socially beneficial issues, organize the movement around shared values and principles, facilitate STEM education through the use of open source hardware, and finally to collect, compile, and publish data about the movement. " (