Patents and Copyright and Trademarks… Oh, why!?

There’s a constellation of legal constructs that you often hear referred to collectively as “intellectual property law.” That’s a tricky term because it encourages you to think of these three separate legal ideas as more or less the same, even though they’re very different. More importantly, each type of “intellectual property” has different implications for free and open source software developers.

These three concepts were originally designed to provide ownership rights for tangible creations. Software isn’t particularly well-served by any of these mechanisms and so we use different concepts for different parts of our software. Just to make it more confusing, each of these mechanisms has also evolved and expanded over time. If you’ve ever wondered why patents are so tricky when applied to software or how copyright law works, then this the talk for you.

Absolutely none of this is meant to stand in for legal advice. However, your time with a lawyer can be greatly shortened when you have a good grasp of the basic legal concepts going in.

Andrea Casillas

Prior to becoming Director of Linux Defenders at Open Invention Network, Andrea Casillas was a postgraduate fellow at the Institution for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School, Assistant Director of the Center for Information Law and Policy and the Director of Peer To Patent an initiative allowing the public to contribute to the USPTO’s patent examination process. She has a J.D. from New York Law School and a B.S. from Arizona State University. Andrea has presented at various conferences including LinuxCon Europe, LinuxCon North America, FSFE Legal Workshop, Open Source Festival, Google Summer of Code, Peer Review Prior Art Roundtable at WIPO in Geneva and the USPTO, in addition to guest lecturing at various universities.