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Open source—Is it an alternative to intellectual property?

What is Intellectual Property?

In many countries, scientific theories, mathematical methods, plant or animal varieties, discoveries of natural substances, business methods, or methods for medical treatment as opposed to medical products are generally not patentable. Any communication of an invention to the public is considered, in the context of patents, a public disclosure.

Managing OSS Licensing Risks

The disclosure can happen in writing, orally or even just by exhibiting the invention publically e. As long as the recipient of the information is not bound by confidentiality, the communication is considered to be public.


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All public disclosures before the date of filing of a patent application are considered to be part of the prior art, i. Therefore technical journals, poster sessions, slides, lectures, seminars, letters, even conversations can count as a bar to patentability. For these reasons, if you are considering patent protection, a patent application should be filed before you make any public disclosures about your invention. Patents are useful to reduce the risks taken when making major initial investments to bring innovative technologies on the market. This is even more so when industrial partners licence CERN technologies and make considerable investments to transform an early-stage innovative technology into a commercial product.

Copyright is a form of protection which comes into existence automatically with the creation of the work. It protects literary and artistic works, in a broad sense, which are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright protects the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves, and gives their authors exclusive rights to reproduce the copyrighted material. Copyrighted works include computer programs.

A trademark is any sign that individualizes the goods of a given enterprise and distinguishes them from the goods of its competitors. It may take many forms: word, logo, slogan, symbol, design—or any combination of these. A trademark can acquire protection either through registration or through use. It is generally accepted that the sign must be distinctive, and not deceptive or descriptive.

Protecting intellectual property in an open source world

A Trade Secret is information which is not generally known a formula, manufacturing process, method of doing business, or technical know-how , and which is kept confidential, so that it gives its holder a competitive advantage. A licence is permission to perform acts which the granting party has the right to otherwise prohibit. In the context of intellectual property, it is the grant by the owner of the intellectual property rights to a licensee to use the intellectual property subject to certain conditions. The basic principle underlying Open Source Software is that the software source code is made available, allowing others to modify the software.

But this is only one aspect.

1. Introduction

Open source software and free software are different terms for software which comes with certain rights, or freedoms, for the user. Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software.

Open Source Software and Free Software describe two approaches towards free software. These include the right to decide who can adapt, copy, and distribute your work and the right to take legal action against those who do so without permission.

Intellectual Property and Open Source: Everything You Need to Know

By copyright law , software falls under a type of literary work. A recorded work necessitates Copyright protection ; the work in question does not require registration or a copyright mark to get protection, although it also qualifies. The copyright owner can assign the copyright, thus selling the rights to their work.


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They can also give permission, called a license, to an individual or business known as a licensee. These rights exist in a legally binding document called the license agreement. It's important to draft a clear, detailed license agreement since it determines the outcome of any conflicts that may arise.

The 3-Clause BSD license permits a redistribution of code under three terms:. The Apache License Version 2. The European Organization for Nuclear Research has a third license used only for hardware designs. This type of license is unique because instead of licensing a finished product, you are only licensing the design and must build it yourself. Once the software has been licensed as open source, its use cannot be later restricted. The source code has already been published and the genie cannot be returned to the proverbial bottle.

The program is usable by those in all fields and industries. The rights apply to programs bought independently or as part of a bundled software group.

Open Source Software: Key Steps to Avoid IP and Licensing Risks | IndustryWeek

Distributing the program along with any other software and in any form. Background: Open Source Software The open source framework provides software users and developers an alternative method of development and distribution, alongside other methods that include freeware, public domain , shareware, vaporware, and commercial software. Software, Copyright, and Licensing Issues When working with other software developers and organizations, make sure that contracts specify exactly who owns the resulting IP. The 3-Clause BSD license permits a redistribution of code under three terms: Retaining the copyright notice, condition list, and disclaimer during software redistribution.