Will Altium buy KiCad?

As KiCad develops pretty fast and get more and more powerful/useful (and still free for anyone) do we think Altium will buy KiCad soon (if you can’t beat them—join/eat/buy/kill them)?

I don’t know enough about the licensing but I doubt they could take what has been done so far to closed source. I doubt they would want any of their contributions open. What they would have to do is basically hire the talent away from the project and hope it dies.

I think everyone that would have ever contributed would have to sign off on any license change to their work. I just don’t see it.

Sometimes people suspect that KiCad could be “hijacked” or bought. But no, it’s not possible.

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This is true, that’s the benefit of the GPL license. Any developer can give permission to change the license for his/her contribution, but not for the other parts of the code.

Even if the current developers could be bought (which isn’t possible in reality), the code base as it would be at that point would stay under the Open Source GPL license and others could continue open development.

Putting the GPL and any serious discussion aside (was this the intention of the OP?), I doubt Altium - even if they could - would ever want to buy KiCad. What would be their gain? We don’t code in Delphi, nor we would ever want to…



In the past some ‘open source’ projects were taken private. I don’t know what the license or legality was on them. Pissed off tons of contributors and users.


The question, all programming in what language etc put aside, is as simple as the outcome. Might it happen?

If you want a serious, neutral, objective answer considering all even remotely realistic aspects, the answer is – no, it’s not possible, it’s impossible.

This could happen only with a different license and/or different copyright owner situation. For example a MIT license would allow this, but not GPL. There are good examples of GPL software which is owned by a company and released also as closed source (or having been closed after being open source), but in practice it requires that one legal entity owns the copyright. That’s not the case with KiCad.

For example the Qt toolkit is released under some Open Source licenses but also as closed source commercially. If someone contributes, they must grant some rights to some legal entity. Here’s a quote:

3.1 Copyright License
Subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement, Licensor hereby grants, in exchange for good and valuable consideration, the receipt and sufficiency of which is hereby acknowledged, to The Qt Company a sublicensable, irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free and fully paid-up copyright and trade secret license to reproduce, adapt, translate, modify, and prepare derivative works of, publicly display, publicly perform, sublicense, make available and distribute Licensor Contribution(s) and any derivative works thereof under license terms of The Qt Company’s choosing including any Open Source Software license.

A good example of this ‘battle’ is OpenOffice… when someone wanted to ‘close’ the vitality of the code, Libreoffice was born and the rest is just history…


Good! I really like that answer!

Open Office was floundering until Star Office was open sourced by Sun Microsystems. Open office just adopted that code base. I actually bought a copy of Star back in the day. I didn’t need the proprietary stuff, just a ‘thank you’ purchase.

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There is no point in attempting to buy GPL licensed software. One could buy a trademark and domains in theory but you can be 100% sure that the moment that happens KiCad will be forked into “KeeCad” and that’s it. There is nothing they can do to prevent it and even if they continue to develop their own KiCad they are open to lawsuits requiring to provide source for it.

So if you can’t possibly snuff the project out or benefit from owning it, why bother buying it?

They would also be exposing themselves to allegations that Altium code now contained chunks of KiCad GPL code

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The only instance I can think of where code was made proprietary after having been in the open was cdrtools by Jörg Schilling. In that case what happened was a GPL fork was made and Linux distros continued with that while Jörg presumably enhanced his code for his customers. It was actually a bit more involved, see here: cdrtools - a tale of two licenses [LWN.net]

In the case of KiCad it would be impossible to distangle all the contributions, so to meaningfully use any subtantial part of the code in proprietary way all the contributors would have to agree to change the license. The probability of this is as near zero as you can get. In addition the last GPL’ed version would still be available for other developers to continue as another project.

So forget it.

The main question/purpose here was if “Altium” (or someone else) buys KiCad was not that they do it to use KiCads code or functions really, simply to buy it to kill it /let it disappear to be able to dominate the “pro” cad market with “Altium” alone as KiCad now/soon might be a threat for their current market. The licensing/code stuff are things way above my simple little low flying brain.

It can’t be bought in the conventional sense, all the contributors would have to agree to transfer their interest. And it would be pointless, since other developers could continue with what has already been released publicly.


They would first have to buy The Linux Foundation which holds the KiCad trademark :wink:
And then bribe all us developers out with handsome salaries and guaranteed employment for years.

Otherwise there’s no “central” entity they could buy. We aren’t a corporation where an owner could choose to sell it out from under the rest of us.
And a new group of developers could pickup the code before the existing developers got bought and continue the work legally. Hell, the Linux Foundation would most likely let them use the KiCad name.

Thanks for this clarification.

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