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The centre is backed by the Open Source Development Labs, which has raised more than £2m for a fund that will provide the seed money for the centre, which is based in New York.
Last year the OSDL announced it had set up a separate £5.3m Linux legal defence fund for Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel, and user companies that faced Linux-related legal action by SCO Group.
The centre will initially employ two full-time lawyers and will be run by Eben Moglen, a copyright law professor at Columbia University.
Moglen said the centre's prime aim was to avoid litigation occurring and to offer advice to developers on how to stay out of courtrooms by avoiding the use of patented intellectual property connected to proprietary software when developing their products.