Legal implications of using React

Hey guys, there’s really not much out there on this, so wanted to ask here. The word on the street was that if you use React, your license can be revoked if you compete against Facebook. This was brought to people’s attention only after React had gotten substantial traction, so it’s hard to tell if this would have been a deal breaker for people if it was known from the get-go. Granted this was a couple months ago, I’d like to know what people in the Meteor community think about this, and whether it is as big of a deal as that HN post made it appear to be.

Please see the following threads.

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Thank you. Those didn’t come up as suggested topics for me earlier. Mods are welcome to close this thread.

No worries I spend I a lot of time here :sunglasses:, I just happened to remember the titles

At this point honestly I don’t think there’s any point to discuss this anymore since it has been brought up enough times.


This is, hands down, the last thing that should play into your decision to use react. Look at the list of major companies (all of who arguably compete with facebook) are using react. If they are not worried and haven’t been sued yet, you’re probably being a little premature to worry about an issue like this. The chances you choose react, start a company and then it competes with facebook to the point they sue you under this clause – you have a better chance of being struck by lightning 10 times in the same day.

This topic is purely philosophical and will probably never affect your life. You may as well spend the day discussing david hume.


I honestly think the legal issue is valid. HOWEVER, there are now many frameworks that do what React does with same or similar API, so switching frameworks should be much easier from when this conversation started. In my humble opinion, risk is now very low.

as @nicholasbydesign pointed out, there are other threads and really no need to bring this topic back up again. But since we’ve got responses, why not…

  • I’m not convinced with an argument of probability here. Probability is demonstrated with multiple instances, not a singular instance. And a smaller probability requires a greater number of instances for the probability to be realized. But you’re not building a million startups, you’re just building the one.
  • If you’re not building something that you think may become big enough for this to matter, then what are you even doing?
  • The legal issues of React were only brought into the mainstream after React already had gotten major traction. We do not know what some of these organizations would have done if they knew about this from the start.
  • On the same vein of citing other companies using React to forego our own legal due diligence, some of those companies may have just done the same and not looked into (or known about) the matter.
  • The costs of a complete rewrite of the front-end can be inhibitive. Especially if using React meant going deep into the React ecosystem and using other libraries and tools that are integrated with it.
  • Some of those companies could very well be looking to phase out React. We do not know their plans.
  • Is there no selection bias when citing the companies using React? The number of major companies who (arguably) compete with Facebook that are not using React outnumbers the number of major companies who (arguably) compete with Facebook that are using react.
  • What if a startup wishes to get acquired by a company that is not in favor of React’s legal stance? (Maybe you don’t have patents, but they do)
  • Major companies can afford legal battles, or else they’re not major companies. Startups would go bankrupt.
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I guess the point is, 95% of the companies that may acquire you are already using react. Microsoft just released a react-based library for all their office apps. Netflix uses react. AirBnb uses react. Google probably doesn’t use React, but I’m not aware of any stories about Google turning down acquisitions because you use react.js to build some web pages and forms. At this point we have no examples of this happening. I find it pretty hard to believe not one of the major players using react are aware of the issue. It seems all the legal teams at these major companies have no issues with it.

This also assumes there is a strong case for Facebook to sue you. I’m sure most patent attorney’s would say it’s a tough case for Facebook to actually sue you for using their javascript code. Also, if Facebook wants to sue you, they’ll just sue you for any reason at any time-- whether you used react or not. Their legal team could just run you in circles for days. Not using react is not going to provide much of a shield when the day comes.

We’re getting at what I said that this is basically a thought experiment. Yeah it is theoretically possible that you could be sued by facebook, just like it is theoretically possible to be struck by lightning 10 times in one day, but does that mean you should remove that possibility 100% by never leaving your house ever again? This is essentially what you’re doing if you avoid using react because of the legal clause.

If you’re at a fortune 500 company where you can score points by brining this liability up at a meeting, then maybe it is worth making a fuss over it. If you’re about to embark on creating a startup, it seems like something I would not worry too much about.

As I said before, the issue did not become mainstream until mid-2016. Unless these companies just became major companies out of nowhere in 6 months, some may have been using React long before the issue came up. Most humans would have simply seen the BSD license and gave it the green light.

And remember, there may be companies who decided not to use React that simply didn’t make it onto the radar since they never used React to begin with. Do we know how many of those companies are out there?

If React was simply BSD, without that questionable patents file, then you would still be licensed to use it if that day came. Only thing that would happen is now you’re being sued. But in this case, the moment your org is involved with Facebook in a suit, your org no longer has the license to use React. And just like that, your org is now using unlicensed software. It essentially lets Facebook freely infringe on any IP as long as the organization relies on React.

This analogy is inaccurate because not using react is not the equivalent of not leaving the house. React is not the only framework. Leaving the house is a necessary risk. Using React while they retain that additional clause appears to be an unnecessary risk.

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After working in fintech for a while and after dealing with legal department (or compliance standards) there, I completely understand the reasons behind the concerns.

And this is still one of the reasons (and rather strong for me at least) against React. You can consider this to be paranoiac, but there is strong legal entity, Facebook, behind it, and there is the specific clause in the license. The lawyers I dealt with would definitely tell me right away that this is a no go.

And the stories about “nothing will happen because everyone does this” are childish, sorry.

[quote=“larry, post:10, topic:32897, full:true”]
If React was simply BSD, without that questionable patents file, then you would still be licensed to use it if that day came. Only thing that would happen is now you’re being sued. But in this case, the moment your org is involved with Facebook in a suit, your org no longer has the license to use React. And just like that, your org is now using unlicensed software. It essentially lets Facebook freely infringe on any IP as long as the organization relies on React.[/quote]

Patent != license. A BSD license is a BSD license. And completely unrelated to any patents issue.

Have you actually read the PATENTS file? It says it in plain text that the license to use React will be terminated:

Software” means the React software distributed by Facebook, Inc.

Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”) hereby grants to each recipient of the Software
(“you”) a perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, irrevocable
(subject to the termination provision below) license under any Necessary
Claims, to make, have made, use, sell, offer to sell, import, and otherwise
transfer the Software.

The license granted hereunder will terminate, automatically and without notice,
if you (or any of your subsidiaries, corporate affiliates or agents) initiate
directly or indirectly, or take a direct financial interest in, any Patent
Assertion: (i) against Facebook or any of its subsidiaries or corporate
affiliates, (ii) against any party if such Patent Assertion arises in whole or
in part from any software, technology, product or service of Facebook or any of
its subsidiaries or corporate affiliates, or (iii) against any party relating
to the Software.

Which would conflict with the BSD license they grant if it actually was about that. The broader one wins - which is the BSD one.

This only has bearings on patent-related issues.

Right. So you’re screwed if:

  • Facebook infringes on your org’s IP
  • can’t take any action against them until a rewrite unless you want an immediate takedown notice on your app
  • not to mention, if you sit on your IP (patents in this case, not copyrights) without enforcing, you forfeit the rights
  • A company with patents wants to acquire you
  • “Hey guys can you hold out for a few months while we re-write a big chunk of our codebase and let our competition get ahead? Pay no mind to that other business that does something similar that you can acquire next week”
  • You want to acquire a company with patents
  • This list is non-exhaustive

Who can predict the future?

It sounds like you’ve made up your mind on the implications and that you do not want to not use react because of them— so what is there left to discuss?

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And how likely are those “if’s”?

Also, it’s your own fault if you live in a country which allows software patents.

Some info from our Meteor Facebook group, I’m quoting a user _"It has been an entire year already since they removed the clause and even when it was there no one understood it. _

The clause stated that if YOUR company sues Facebook for patents then you lose access to Facebook react patents.

But it doesn’t matter anymore since they removed it"

Please see my post in one of the above quoted threads (if you care about my patent lawyer opinion).

This is much ado about nothing. And my attorney friends ringing the alarm bells need to show me/all of us the alarming case law or stop squawking.


@larry Thanks so much for bringing this to attention. I think it’s extremely important, moral “detail”.

I never had a FB account, but I’ve been a React developer and bound to FB now, which is ironic against my idea to dissociate myself, and my private/social life from FB by not having an account. Nonetheless now you reminded me of the moral stance I shall take to avoid using a web technology whose creator aims to just dominate the entire market on the web and claim legal rights upon every possible competitor. Zuckerberg just wants to make more money and have more control.

By using React, we are at his service with no choice left, just like with our “social” lives spent on Facebook itself.

Who knows, maybe that’s why they had started with React at first place?