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We're working on a commercial software product that uses partial syntax from 3rd party open source alternatives but none of the code from these. For example, the open source alternative have a static class DoSomeThing with a member RunNow() and we have the exact same method but none of the other members of the static class. We don't include the 3rd party open source software with our product distribution/package. The 3rd party open source alternatives to our product have MIT and BSD 2 licenses.

Edit: We implement only some of the members in the open source APIs; i.e. we implement a sub-set of the open source API and not the entire API. For example, we may implement static class DoSomeThing with a member RunNow() but not the Foo() member even though the open source API has it.

My question is; must we include the open source licenses for the open source alternatives that we're copying the syntax from?

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    I don't understand what you mean by "uses partial syntax from 3rd party open source alternatives". What is partial syntax, and what about semantics ? Apr 17, 2016 at 10:59
  • @BasileStarynkevitch We implement only some of the members in the open source APIs. For example, we may implement static class DoSomeThing with a member RunNow() but we may not include the the Foo() member even though the open source API has it.
    – temp88786
    Apr 17, 2016 at 11:07
  • That should go into the (edited) question Apr 17, 2016 at 11:41
  • @BasileStarynkevitch Done.
    – temp88786
    Apr 17, 2016 at 11:51

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Disclaimer: this is not legal advice. It's only a personal opinion from an IT professional. For legal advice you shall consult a lawyer or qualified legal expert.

Legal aspects wary very much from country to country. In the European Union for example, the functionality of a programme and a programming language can't be protected per copyright, as this press release fro the European Court of Justice reminds. So In my understanding, if you just provide the same functionality but with your own original code and that you didn't copy the open source code, the licensing terms would not apply.

However for a commercial project in which you invest heavily, you'd better look for qualified legal advice from a lawyer.

Edit: Lawyer involvement would be insofar justified as it appears that US case law might be interpreted somewhat differently from the European understanding. This can be seen in the Google vs. Oracle case on the java API and the different ending for the same case SAS vs. WPL in the US than in the above mentionned conclusion in the European Union. Note that according to Wikipedia, it's not a final ruling, and it seems that the API copier lost the case not because of a copyright infringement, but because of unfair and deceptive trade practices.

Update: The Supreme Court finally concluded in favor of Google. One can understand from the conclusions that reimplementing an API could be fair use, but the legal wording suggest that conditions could apply, so lawyer involvement is still to be recommended

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