The Law and Open Source: What You Must Know

“As a former computer programmer and current intellectual property lawyer, this presentation will discuss the interaction between open source and the current status of intellectual property law. It is difficult to have a complete discussion about “open source” without putting it in a legal context. After all, it is the restrictions that are inherent to the law, especially intellectual property law, that cause source to need to be “open”. By its very definition, intellectual property creates monopolies and “closes” access to source and technology.

This presentation will discuss the history of intellectual property including: (a) the purpose of intellectual property (patents, copyrights and trade secrets) and how the intellectual property clauses (as interpreted by courts) of United States Constitution is not well suited to handle software or digital media (1789); (b) the US Patent Office’s first guidelines directed to computer programs (1968); (c) the opening of the flood gates to software patents and business method patents (State Street - 1998) and the “crappy” patents that followed (e.g. Amazon one-click and IBM’s “System and Method for Providing Reservations for Restroom Use – US Patent 6,329,919”); (d) the rise of the “patent troll” (2005) – read the ambulance chaser of intellectual property; (e) the Supreme Court’s attempt to curb software patents (Bilski - 2010) – false start; (f) the death to software patents in CLS Bank v. Alice (June 2014) and (g) the life support given to software patents by the Federal Circuit, the appeals court for all patent cases. in December of 2014 (DDR).

Principally, this presentation will discuss the interaction between open source, and intellectual property law as it currently exists. The collision between technology and the law will be highlighted and practical tips designed for the technologist (without a law degree) on how to navigate the morass will be provided.”