A license (American English) or licence (British English) is an official permission or permit to do, use, or own something (as well as the document of that permission or permit).|
In particular, a license may be issued by authorities, to allow an activity that would otherwise be forbidden. It may require paying a fee or proving a capability. The requirement may also serve to keep the authorities informed on a type of activity, and to give them the opportunity to set conditions and limitations.
Territory: a license may stipulate what territory the rights pertain to. For example, a license with a territory limited to "North America" (Mexico/United States/Canada) would not permit a licensee any protection from actions for use in Japan.
Intellectual property licensing plays a major role in business, academia and broadcasting. Business practices such as franchising, technology transfer, publication and character merchandising entirely depend on the licensing of intellectual property. Land licensing (proprietary licensing) and IP licensing form sub-branches of law born out of the interplay of general laws of contract and specific principles and statutory laws relating to these respective assets.
A licensor may grant permission to a licensee to conduct activities which would otherwise be within the licensor's patented exclusive rights. Under U.S. patent law, those activities are to make, use, sell, offer for sale, or import a patented product, or to perform a patented process. The term of a patent license may be a "fixed" (i.e., specified) term, such as 5 years, or may be for the life of the patent (i.e., until the patent expires). A patent is by its nature limited in territorial scope; it only covers activity within the borders of the country issuing the patent. Accordingly, a patent license does not require a territory provision.
A licensor may grant permission to a licensee to distribute products under a trademark. With such a license, the licensee may use the trademark without fear of a claim of trademark infringement by the licensor. The assignment of a license often depends on specific contractual terms. The most common terms are, that a license is only applicable for a particular geographic region, just for a certain period of time or merely for a stage in the value chain. Moreover, there are different types of fees within the trademark and brand licensing. The first form demands a fee independent of sales and profits, the second type of license fee is dependent on the productivity of the licensee.
A licentiate is an academic degree that traditionally conferred the license to teach at a university or to practice a particular profession. The term survived despite the fact that nowadays a doctorate is typically needed in order to teach at a university. The term is also used for a person who holds a licentiate. In English, the degree has never been called a license. In France, the licence is the first degree awarded in Universities, three years after the bachelor's degree.
In the United Kingdom prisoners may be released prior to the completion of their full sentence "on licence". Basically, the licence is the prisoner's agreement to maintain certain conditions, such as periodic reporting in to a probation officer and maintaining fixed address, in exchange for his freedom. Parole and release on licence are the same procedure by another name.
The provision of licenses and the agencies that mandate them are often criticised by libertarians, like Milton Friedman, for creating an anticompetitive environment for occupations, which creates a barrier to entry for more qualified and skilled individuals who may not have the resources to obtain the necessary licences. According to Friedman, licenses and permits have become so burdensome due to legislation that favors the current establishment of wealthy occupants that they decrease the supply of such occupations, which raises prices for the average consumer. Libertarians and the anti-authoritarian left (anarcho-communists) view competing guilds and other voluntary communes as being more beneficial for disseminating the skills and education required to perform a specified career.