Alan Hargreaves' Blog

The ramblings of a former Australian SaND TSC* Principal Field Technologist

The differences between Copyright and Patents

The thing that I am noticing most about those of us who are hammering us over “only releasing our patents to CDDL” is that there is major confusion between Patents and Copyrights.

I am not a lawyer, but I have dealt with the patent process (having one lodged with the patent office now for about two years – only one more to go before they decide whether or not to approve it).

Simon Phipps has done a much better job than I could have hoped to of discussing the differences and implications, but there are a few things that I will say.

One of the statements that really annoys me is when people say “don’t look at the Sun code in Open Solaris or you might find yourself in a patent lawsuit”.

What utter rubbish!

A patent covers an idea, a copyright covers an implementation. It is possible to infringe on a patent without seeing an implementation. In fact whether or not you have seen an implementation is completely irrelevant.

All that we have done with CDDL is to say that if an entity releases code that is the subject of a patent that that entity holds, then anyone working within the framework of the CDDL is granted patent protection under the terms of that license. Nothing else has changed with regard to other licenses. If another license should include patent protection terms such as what the CDDL does, then the same protections would apply with regard to the entity releasing code and developers.

Open Solaris is being released under an OSI approved license. One of the consequences of the terms of this license is that Sun (or anyone who contributes code under it) is required to provide patent protection for any patents that they may hold that may cover that code.

This is definitely an improvement on the status quo and I am left wondering how this is a bad thing.

The other thing that is certainly worth noting is Sun’s history of aggressively prosocuting patent infringement. There isn’t one!

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Written by Alan

February 3, 2005 at 12:05 am

2 Responses

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  1. Wise guy stallman has <a href = “”>added more fuel to the fire, further misleading the already confused,terrified,insecure slashdot crowd. As simon phipps righty pointed out, they find themselves ill equipped to understand CDDL, and find solace in blindly attacking Sun. You need not be a lawyer to understand that OSI approval implies patent protected for the relevant IP.You need to remember that they’ve already done the legal homework on behalf of the community.So, why panic (or blindly flame Sun, Mr.Stallman)?

    Bharath Ravikumar

    February 3, 2005 at 10:41 pm

  2. Sorry about the gazillion typos in the previous posting. The urge to get the message through always overrules careful typing. E&OE. 😀

    Bharath Ravikumar

    February 3, 2005 at 10:44 pm

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