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Intellectual Property for

Software (Re-)Engineers and Researchers

Donwload a printable version of the WCRE 2007 program: pdf


By Daniel M. German

Date: October 29, 2007 - 2:30pm -6:00pm

Location: Denman Room


The goal of this 3 hrs. tutorial is to introduce software engineers and researchers to the field of intellectual property(IP) as it applies to software engineering and reverse engineering. This tutorial is composed of three main components: software IP, IP legislation regarding software reengineering, and the legal issues surrounding reuse of open source software.


Intellectual property (IP) is defined as the “commercial application of imaginative thought to solving a technical or artistic challenge” [1]. Software is one of the many manifestations of intellectual property and it is usually protected using IP legislation. In the last years we have also seen an increment in the litigation around intellectual IP. It is not uncommon to see in the news how a company or an individual sues another claiming IP infringement. The laws keep evolving and changing, trying to cope with the evolution of technology in which businesses can flourish and compete. Software (re-) engineers and researchers need to understand the laws that govern software, and how they can affect their day to day work. This is particularly true for researchers who are interested in reverse engineering (which in some jurisdictions might be penalized) or those interested in incorporating free and open source software into their own projects.



Software as IP (1 hr)

  • How software is protected
  • Types of Licenses
    • Based upon copyright law
    • Licenses as contracts
  • Collaborative works
  • Derivative works
  • Software patents

IP and the reverse engineering of software (0.75hr)

    • Reverse engineering legislation around the world
    • USA: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act
      • When is reverse engineering allowed and when it is not
      • Overview of legal cases involving reverse engineering


Reusing Open Source Software (OSS) (1.25 hrs)

    • Overview of OSS licenses
      • BSD and MIT
      • GPL
      • Apache and Mozilla
    • Using OSS in research and industry
      • Relicensing and license compatibility
      • Overview of legal cases involvingOSS reuse



This tutorial is intended for people who are involved in software engineering. It does not assume any previous knowledge of intellectual property.


[1] K. Idris. Intellectual Property, a power tool for economic growth. World Intellectual Property Organization, 2005.

Last updated on January 08, 2007
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