Intellectual Property and Open Source

A Practical Guide to Protecting Code

Van Lindberg

Publisher: O'Reilly, 2008, 371 pages

ISBN: 978-0-596-51796-0

Keywords: Open Source

Last modified: May 4, 2010, 1:48 p.m.

If you work in information technology, intellectual property is central to your job — but dealing with the complexities of the legal system can be mind-boggling. This book is for anyone who wants to understand how the legal system deals with intellectual property rights for code and other content. You'll get a clear look at intellectual property issues from a developer's point of view, including practical advice about situations you're likely to encounter.

Written by an intellectual property attorney who is also a programmer, Intellectual Property and Open Source helps you understand patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and licenses, with special focus on the issues surrounding open source development and the GPL. This book answers questions such as:

  • How do open source and intellectual property work together?
  • What are the most important intellectual property-related issues when starting a business or open source project?
  • How should you handle copyright, licensing and other issues when accepting a patch from another developer?
  • How can you pursue your own ideas while working for someone else?
  • What parts of a patent should be reviewed to see if it applies to your work?
  • When is your idea a trade secret?
  • How can you reverse engineer a product without getting into trouble?
  • What should you think about when choosing an open source license for your project?

Most legal sources are too scattered, too arcane, and too hard to read. Intellectual Property and Open Source is a friendly, easy-to-follow overview of the law that programmers, system administrators, graphic designers, and many others will find essential.

  1. The Economic and Legal Foundations of Intellectual Property
    • Law and Code
    • The Types of Intellectual Property
    • Intellectual Property and Market Failure
    • Evaluating the System
  2. The Patent Document
    • The Construction of a Patent
    • The Face of the Patent
    • Conception of the Invention
    • The Body of the Patent
    • The Claims
    • Other Resources
  3. The Patent System
    • The Patent System As a Knowledge Cache
    • Requirements for Getting a Patent
    • Getting a Patent
    • Patent Proliferation
  4. Copyright
    • Copyright in Context
    • The Terms of Copyright
    • The Copyright Term
    • Owning a Copyright
    • The Rights Granted by Copyright
  5. Trademarks
    • Trademarks Defined
    • The Economic Function of Trademarks
    • Modern Trademark Law in the United States
  6. Trade Secrets
    • Trade Secrets Defined
    • The Flaming Moe: The Life and Death of a Trade Secret
    • Trade Secrets and Software Development
    • Trade Secrets, Businesses, and Consultants
  7. Contracts and Licenses
    • Licenses and Firewalls
    • Why Contracts and Licenses Matter
    • Contract Law Principles
    • Intellectual Property Contracts
    • Applying a License to Intellectual Property
  8. The Economic and Legal Foundations of Open Source Software
    • A Brief Digression into Terminology
    • Understanding Open Source
    • Credit Unions and Open Source: An Analogy
    • The Role of Open Source Licenses
    • The Open Source Definition
    • Different Types of Open Source Licenses
  9. So I Have an Idea…
    • Cautionary Tales
    • Employees and Inventions
    • Look At What You Sign
    • The Employer-Employee Relationship
    • Tell the Company
    • What Do You Do?
  10. Choosing a License
    • Why Do I Need a License?
    • No License Required
    • Proprietary Commercial Licensing
    • Open Source Licensing
    • Why You Should Not Write Your Own License
    • Choosing an Open Source License
  11. Accepting Patches and Contributions
    • Back to (Copyright) Basics
    • Three Solutions
    • Administrative Issues
  12. Working with the GPL
    • Daily Life with the GPL
    • Understanding the Terms of the Debate
    • Linking and Licensing
    • Copyright Confusion
    • Thinking About Derivative Works
    • Questions and Answers
  13. Reverse Engineering
    • Storming the Castle
    • A Sample Reverse Engineering Procedure
    • The Digital Millennium Copyright Act
  14. Incorporating As a Non-Profit
    • Why Incorporate Your Project?
    • Creating a Non-Profit Entity
    • Operating a Non-Profit Organization
    • Umbrella Organizations As an Alternative
  1. Sample Proprietary Information Agreement (PIA)
  2. Open Source License List
  3. Free Software License List
  4. Fedora License List and GPL Compatibility
  5. Public Domain Declaration
  6. The Simplified BSD License
  7. The Apache License, Version 2.0
  8. The Mozilla Public License, Version 1.1
  9. The GNU Lesser General Public License, Version 2.1
  10. GNU Lesser General Public License, Version 3
  11. The GNU General Public License, Version 2, June 1991
  12. The GNU General Public License, Version 3, June 2007
  13. The Open Software License, Version 3.0


Intellectual Property and Open Source

Reviewed by Roland Buresund

Decent ****** (6 out of 10)

Last modified: May 4, 2010, 1:47 p.m.

A good primer and introduction on the legal world of Intellectual Property as it pertains to software, with a focus on Open Source.

Be wary, though, as this is only applicable in the US with their convoluted legal system, that is quite alien to the (most) European legal systems.

An enjoyable read in any case.


There are currently no comments

New Comment


required (not published)