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Test cases and open source license enforcement

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OSS

A test case is a lawsuit brought primarily to achieve a policy outcome by securing a judicial ruling that reverses settled law or clarifies some disputed legal question. Bringing a test case typically involves carefully planning out where, when, and whom to sue and which legal arguments to advance in order to maximize the chances of winning the desired result. In the United States, we often see test case strategies used by public interest organizations to effect legal change that cannot practically be attained through other governmental means.

But a test case strategy can be used by either side of a policy dispute. Even if a test case is successful, the real policy goal may continue to be elusive, given the limitations of case-specific court judgments, which may be met with administrative obstruction or legislative nullification. Test case litigation can also fail, sometimes disastrously—in the worst case, from the test litigant's perspective, the court might issue a ruling that is the direct opposite of what was sought, as happened in Plessy v. Ferguson.

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