What is License?

Legal Definition
The verb license or grant license means to give permission. The noun licence (British, Indian, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, Irish, or South African English) or license (American English) refers to that permission as well as to the document recording that permission.

A license may be granted by a party ("licensor") to another party ("licensee") as an element of an agreement between those parties. A shorthand definition of a license is "an authorization (by the licensor) to use the licensed material (by the licensee)."

In particular, a license may be issued by authorities, to allow an activity that would otherwise be forbidden. It may require paying a fee and/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.

A licensor may grant a license under intellectual property laws to authorize a use (such as copying software or using a (patented) invention) to a licensee, sparing the licensee from a claim of infringement brought by the licensor. A license under intellectual property commonly has several components beyond the grant itself, including a term, territory, renewal provisions, and other limitations deemed vital to the licensor.

Term: many licenses are valid for a particular length of time. This protects the licensor should the value of the license increase, or market conditions change. It also preserves enforceability by ensuring that no license extends beyond the term of the agreement.

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.

A shorthand definition of license is "a promise by the licensor not to sue the licensee." That means without a license any use or exploitation of intellectual property by a third party would amount to copying or infringement. Such copying would be improper and could, by using the legal system, be stopped if the intellectual property owner wanted to do so.

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.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
Contracts. A right given by some competent authority to do an act, which without such authority would be illegal. The instrument or writing which secures this right, is also called a license. Vide Ayl. Parerg, 353; 15 Vin. Ab. 92; Ang. Wat. Co. 61, 85.

2. A license is express or implied. An express license is one which in direct terms authorizes the performance of a certain act; as a license to keep a tavern given by public authority.

3. An implied license is one which though not expressly given, may be presumed from the acts of the party having a right to give it. The following are examples of such licenses: 1. When a man knocks at another's door, and it is opened, the act of opening the door licenses the former to enter the house for any lawful purpose. See Hob. 62. A servant is, in consequence of his employment, licensed to admit to the house, those who come on his master's business, but only such persons. Selw. N. P. 999; Cro. Eliz. 246. It may, however, be inferred from circumstances that the servant has authority to invite whom he pleases to the house, for lawful purposes. See 2 Greenl. Ev. §427; Entry.

4. A Iicense is either a bare authority, without interest, or it is coupled with an interest. 1. A bare license must be executed by the party to whom it is given in person, and cannot be made over or assigned by him to another; and, being without consideration, may be revoked at pleasure, as long as it remains executory; 39 Hen. VI. M. 12, page 7; but when carried into effect, either partially or altogether, it can only be rescinded, if in its nature it will admit of revocation, by placing the other side in the same situation in which he stood before he entered on its execution. 8 East, R. 308; Palm. 71; S. C. Poph. 151; S. C. 2 Roll. Rep. 143, 152.

5. - 2. When the license is coupled with an interest the authority conferred is not properly a mere permission, but amounts to a grant, which cannot be revoked, and it may then be assigned to a third person. 5 Hen. V., M. 1, page 1; 2 Mod. 317; 7 Bing. 693; 8 East, 309; 5 B. & C. 221; 7 D. & R. 783; Crabb on R. P. §521 to 525; 14 S. & R 267; 4 S. & R. 241; 2 Eq. Cas. Ab. 522. When the license is coupled with an interest, the formalities essential to confer such interest should be observed. Say. R. 3; 6 East, R. 602; 8 East, R. 310, note. See 14 S. & R. 267; 4 S. & R. 241; 2 Eq. Cas. Ab. 522; 11 Ad. & El. 34, 39; S. C. 39 Eng, C. L. R. 19.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
International law. An authority given by one of two belligerent parties, to the citizens or subjects of the other, to carry on a specified trade.

2. The effects of the license are to suspend or relax the rules of war to the extent of the authority given. It is the assumption of a state of peace to the extent of the license. In the country which grants them, licenses to carry on a pacific commerce are stricti juris, as being exceptions to the general rule; though they are not to be construed with pedantic accuracy, nor will every small deviation be held to vitiate the fair effect of them. 4 Rob. Rep. 8; Chitty, Law of Nat. 1 to 5, and 260; 1 Kent, Com. 164, 85.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
In the law of contracts. A permission, accorded by a competent authority, conferring the right to do some act which without such authorization would be illegal, or would be a trespass or a tort. State v. Hipp, 38 Ohio St 226; Youngblood v. Sexton, 32 Mich. 406, 20 Am. Rep. 654; Hubman v. State, 61 Ark. 482, 33 S. W. 843; Chicago v. Collins, 175 111. 445, 51 N. E. 907, 49 In R. A. 408, 67 In R. A. 224. Also the written evidence of such permission. In real property law. An authority to do a particular act or series of acts upon another's land without possessing any estate therein. Clifford v. O'Neill, 12 App. Div. 17, 42 N. Y. Supp. 607; Davis v. Townsend, 10 Barb. (N. Y.) 343; Morrill v. Mackman, 24 Mich. 282, 9 Am. Rep. 124; Wynn v. Garland, 19 Ark. 23, 68 Am. Dec. 190; Cheever v. Pearson, 16 Pick. (Mass.) 266. Also the written evidence of authority so acoorded. It is distinguished from an "easement," which implies an interest in the land to be affected, and a "lease," or right to take the profits of land. It may be, however, and often, is, coupled with a grant of some interest in the land itself, or right to take the profits. 1 Washb. Real Prop. 398. In pleading. A plea of justification to an action of trespass that the defendant was authorized by the owner of the freehold to commit the trespass complained of. In the law of patents. A written authority granted by the owner of a patent to another person empowering the latter to make or use the patented article for a limited period or in a limited territory. In interuatioual law. Permission granted by a belligerent state to its own subjects, or to the subjects of the enemy, to carry on a trade interdicted by war. Wheat. Int. Law, 447.
-- Black's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
A bare authority to do a certain act, or series of acts, upon another’s land, without possessing any estate therein. See 3 Wyo 513, 31 Am. St. Rep. 122, 27 Pac. 807, 900. A permission to do something which without the permission would not be allowed. See 32 Mich. 406, 20 Am. Rep. 654.
-- Ballentine's Law Dictionary