License for project made with Kicad



If I use Kicad to make a board, what license do i have to use for this project?

For the Firmware/bootloader C/C++ and JavaFX/Android I used Apache V2.0 for my projects but I don’t know wich I use to Kicad project. It’s possible to use Apache V2.0 also?.

Best regards


Afaik (take with grain of salt).
The data you create with KiCAD is free from licensing needs.
The data you reuse with(in) and from KiCAD (symbols, footprints, 3D models) are under some GPL3 alike license for creative work that allows you to do whatever you want to do with them.

@maui or @SchrodingersGat or @bobc will probably know more…


You aren’t required to license it. If you WANT to share it I’d suggest you start here.

Just look up other open hardware projects and see what you are comfortable with.


PCBs designed with KiCad do not derive any license from the KiCad tool, in the same way that your word processor doesn’t taint your documents.
To do this we have to be careful that library symbols, footprints and 3D models are all under Creative Commons type licenses. This means that we cannot just upload these from the online symbol library sites.

Your PCB is protected by copyright, assigned to you or your employer


The files in the (new) 3D model library are under GPL v3 with a symbol exception. This exception is normally used for fonts. (More details see the wiki entry regarding licensing)
I don’t think such an exception is made in our other repositories at the moment. Might be something we need to do.
I’m sure it is not intended that the terms of the GPL would apply to the files created by the user.
I opened an issue over at the main library repo


Copyright does not generally protect physical objects, unless they are solely artistic in nature (e.g. sculptures). In general, “utility works” (i.e. objects which have a function, like PCBs) are not protectable by copyright, but there are certain specific exceptions (e.g. the mask for ICs, yacht designs, software). Other IP rights may apply to hardware, such as patents or trade marks.

For the OP, KiCad is like any other FOSS tool, it does not place restrictions on what the user creates with it.


Generally the PCB itself is not copyrightable. but the silkscreen may be. The schematics can also be copyrighted.
It all depends on the depth of your pockets. Apple closed down Franklin for cloning the Apple II at the PCB level.


The drawing of the circuit might be copyrightable, but the actual circuit, no. The same principle of “utility work” apples to the circuit.

But you are right about depth of pockets. For the small user, there is no useful protection afforded by copyright laws (I know this from personal experience!). For the big company, they can harass you and drag you through the courts with nuisance law suits, which you must defend, and force you into a settlement even if you were not at fault. Apple have proven excellent at this sort of unethical legal shenanigans, I would certainly not follow their example.

Not really true, the reason was not the PCB, but the OS: “Apple Computer, Inc. v. Franklin Computer Corp., 714 F.2d 1240 (3d Cir. 1983), was the first time an appellate level court in the United States held that a computer’s operating system could be protected by copyright.” (wikipedia)


Very true. You will be bullied through a legal process if you do not have the funds to pursue it.

That said, perhaps it is good to note that many replies here probably assume we are talking about American law. Most countries, I believe, do have something similar to authorship and copyright, but that is not a guarantee.
And then there is the patent thingy. That’s another one where, in practice, a small developer is almost lawless. Once you have designed a neat PCB and it is becoming marginally successful, some troll will come after you claiming you have violated one or more of their patents. Again, without the funds to pay for years of battles in court, you have no chance, especially in the US.

It is injustice, yes, but it is like it is.


I use KiCAD symbols and footprints usually but sometimes I create symbols and footprints that I can not find. 3D models are from packages3D, JoanTheSpark Library and easyw in github. I also think I’ve used some model from GrabCAD, but I think I can create them with easyw/kicad-3d-models-in-freecad.



In the EU you may be more correctly protected by Design Rights, not as long duration as copyright, but not dependent on artistic values


Hi @raspdroid
licensing has been discussed quite widely in some posts

and a Wayne point of view

What kind of restrictions do I have to expect when I’m using KiCad for my designs?
Wayne reply:
None. I don’t think anyone here believes that if you use our symbols, footprints, and/or 3D models that we own you design. If they do, we have a serious issue.

that point of view, I think, is putting away the problem of distributing the design …

Anyway for 3D mechanical symbols we preferred to clearly state a licensing policy which is giving all the needed freedom and knowledge to the designer :smiley:
3D Model-Licencing