September 26, 2017

Facebook grants full patent rights to all GraphQL users

Sashko Stubailo

Sashko Stubailo

The last month has been an interesting time in the React and GraphQL communities, with a lot of discussion about different software licenses, patent grants, and patents involved in the GraphQL specification. Today, just a few days after React was relicensed to MIT, I’m excited to report that GraphQL is joining in, and all of these issues can finally be put to rest.

Here are today’s new developments in regards to the licensing of Facebook’s GraphQL projects:

  1. The GraphQL specification, the document on which all GraphQL implementations are based, has been relicensed under the Open Web Foundation Agreement (OWFa) v1.0.This change unambiguously grants all the necessary patent rights to use GraphQL in any setting.
  2. The GraphQL.js reference implementation, which most JavaScript GraphQL projects are based on, and Relay, are being relicensed under the MIT license. This is an extremely popular and permissive license used by a huge number of open source projects including React and Apollo.

Read the post on the Facebook blog for the official announcement from Lee Byron.

This is a critical step forward for the GraphQL community, and underscores the GraphQL team’s commitment to empower as many people as possible to adopt GraphQL. We on the Apollo team are thankful that Lee and the team at Facebook were responsive and communicative throughout the process, and reached what we feel is the best possible outcome very quickly.

The team at Apollo knew that patent issues were an open question for many GraphQL and Apollo developers, and finding a constructive resolution to these patent questions had been a top priority of ours for the last several months.

Read on for more details about these new licenses.

Patent grants in the specification

The most important news today is that the GraphQL specification has been relicensed under the OWFa, an open license that allows anyone to use or implement the GraphQL specification without worrying about copyright or patent issues.

Essentially, the OWFa license says that anyone using the GraphQL specification automatically gets a grant to any patents that are necessary to the spec. This is a standard license that has also been used by many other specifications that you might have heard of or used, including some versions of the Document Object Model (DOM) spec from WHATWG and TypeScript from Microsoft.

I’m excited that this new license will make it easy for people to use the specification, contribute to it, and build new GraphQL implementations without any legal concerns.

MIT license for GraphQL.js

One other point of concern in the community in the past has been the BSD + patents license that Facebook used for some of its most prominent open source projects. Part of today’s announcement is that GraphQL.js, the reference implementation of the GraphQL spec, is going to be licensed under the MIT license. This is a standard permissive license used by a huge number of popular open source projects, including all of the Apollo GraphQL open source tools.

This means anyone can use, fork, and build upon GraphQL.js without worrying about the license. Since you’re probably already using multiple open source projects with the MIT license, you can use GraphQL.js with the peace of mind that it comes with exactly the same permissions.

This is great news for the Apollo project as well, since many of our tools depend on GraphQL.js, which means developers can now use all Apollo open source tools and dependencies under an MIT license.


At Apollo, we believe GraphQL is a big step forward for how people manage data in their applications. That’s why we’ve been working hard for almost two years to make GraphQL better, easier to adopt, and more useful for developers, teams, and companies of all shapes and sizes. One part of that work is building great technology, but the social and legal aspects are just as important.

On behalf of the whole team, I’d like to express how excited we are that GraphQL is now in the best possible position to grow and thrive as one of the main tools people use to build software. Now, let’s get back to building cool stuff!

GraphQL Summit

With this great news, we’re even more pleased to invite you to come to the GraphQL Summit conference on October 25–26 in San Francisco. Hear from the engineers at Facebook, Apollo, and other companies about all aspects of GraphQL! Sign up below and use the discount code GRAPHQLFTW for 10% off!

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Sashko Stubailo

Sashko Stubailo

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