Understanding Intellectual Property
**** PLEASE READ **** This article intends to be a very quick introduction to Intellectual Property. It goes straight to what we need to know. So, please read!!!
- It's very important to understand that all work we are doing must be properly protected against malicious acts from others and, at the same time, our work must respect the rights of others properly. These burocratic aspects must be observed very seriously, otherwise we will have problems in the future instead of collecting the pleasant results of our hard work.
- This article intends to quickly introduce the subject, quickly explains how intellectual property applies to software, what are the actions we must take in order to protect our intellectual property and what are the actions we must observe in order to respect intellectual property owned by others.
We need to understand what Intellectual Property is because:
- we need to protect our intellectual property in order to be able to claim our rights;
- we need to respect intellectual property of others, otherwise they will claim their rigths against us.
Introduction to Intellectual Property
Intellectual Property is divided in 4 groups:
- Patents: For inventions, protecting new products and processes;
- Designs: For appearance of articles, protecting shape and pattern;
- Trade Marks: For brands, protecting distinctive reputations vested in names and logos, etc;
- Copyright: For creative works, protecting literary, musical and artistic works.
In practice, it means:
- Patents: How something works or the process of making it;
- Designs: The distinctive look of the product or object;
- Trade Marks: Works of logo to indicate the origin of the products of services;
- Copyright: Artistic or written works, e.g: paintings, books, films, music, etc.
How software can be protected?
- Software cannot be patented, in general. Some countries like the USA and Japan, allow patents on software. You may be surprised to know that double linked lists are patented.
- Designs (or registered designs, as it is usually known) is not applicable to software, because software is immaterial.
- Trade marks apply to software because any company can register its name and names of any of its products and services.
- Copyrights applies to software, because we consider software as literacy work. There's no registration process on copyrights, except in USA, where the registration is not required but is highly recommended.
In spite copyright can be a extremely confused thing sometimes, it's better to go straight to what we need to know:
- Copyright is a good protection for software.
- Copyright is automatic and implicit when you publish a literacy work, including software.
- There's no formal registration of copyrighted material in the EU whilst it may be a good idea to register in the USA;
- It's mandatory to put copyright notices in our works.
- It's mandatory to respect copyrighted material of others.
The last item can be misinterpreted sometimes. I'm sorry if I sound obvious but...
- we can do what the license permits;
- we cannot do what is prohibited by the license.
A copyright notice is simply the license text on top of all our source code. You need to mention the year and your name, for instance:
Copyright (c) 2009, Richard Gomes
Enforcing others to respect our copyrighted material
In order to properly protect your intellectual property, it's sufficient to have something materialized which proves you had that intellectual property (the software) at that point in time. For instance, you can print source code or copy it to a CD and send it to yourself via registered post. Beware: you must not open the letter when you receive it, otherwise it is not valid as proof of possession of intellectual property anymore!
- Put license headers in all source files;
- Put the copyright owner(s) and years to license headers.
- Mention copyright belonging to others, usually the original QuantLib license header.
Respecting copyrighted material of others
When we find something copyrighted, please observe what's its licensing. These rules apply:
- Articles, papers, text in general, datasets and databases must be licensed under
- BSD, APL, MIT, W3C
- Any public material can be freely copied, reproduced and distributed.
- This document is available to general public to be read but it cannot be freely copied and redistributed.
- When you buy a book the author granted you the right to read the book. You cannot make copies of it and redistribute.
- When you go to a public library you have limited rights to copy certain documents. In general you are only allowed to take copies from the Library, so they guarantee you are paying for the rigths.
- A French boy was sued by a tribunal because he translated a Harry Potter book to French and published on the Internet without paying copyrights.
- Copyrights are due up to 70 years after the author's death, so they are usually mentioned on wills. Elvis Presley's family earned $49m whilst Albert Einstein's family earned $18m in 2007 due to copyrights.
Organized by order of relevance, more relevant first:
- Open Source Licenses Are Not All the Same
- Open Source Licenses Comparison
- Software Patents
- List of software patents
- Examples of Software Patents that hurt Free Software
- The British Library - Business and Intellectual Property Centre
- The UK Intellectual Property Office
- United States Patent and Trade Mark Office
Copyright (c) 2009, Richard Gomes 00:40, 25 January 2009 (UTC)