Intellectual Property vs Intellectual Knowledge

The ancient pre-historic debate of Open sauce versus proprietary software is not that of free software vs expensive one or you get to see the code of every bit of Application that you use but infact a problem of different nature.
First things first. Software is a weird piece of something. Once written, it can be replicated anywhere without any burden on the pockets of the author of that software. Unlike hardware, unlike elictrical/electronic or mechanical equipment and unlike produced art it needs to be only written once. Thats it! all job done. No Bill of Material (BOM), no expenses on machinery (or minimal in terms of development machine/server) and no supply chain management.

Secondly, there is a lot of RnD involved. Not just in java application stack but with every SDK one needs to learn a lot to even start writing code and make proper use of the API; learn the architecture to follow, implement the framework features properly etc. I would even count reading code to write a CR (Change Request) as part of RnD. In fact the whole job becomes RnD and then some artistic touches to implement the problem. Thats the only reason why there is so much task significance in this job for programmers. Every thing a coder writes is new and never written before by himself.

Now comes the debate of who owns the code. I won’t delve deep into this debate but I will simply shed light on some of the points. Say, a firm pays you to write a code of very complex but breakthrough algorithm in Biometrics protein synthesis analysis. Then it patents this algorithm. Question is who owns this algorithm; the firm that payed you to design and write algo or YOU? IMO the author owns this code in reality but legally the ownership lies with the firm . I believe the author can take away his code back home for future reference but should not publish it to breach the legal boundries. Ofcourse he can make a variation of that algo and patent it by his own name or open sauce it for others to see.

This leads to something. Patenting means that you put the brilliant stuff into a cold coffins and seal it with legal tongues. It may pick up some sales in the industry or it may remain in the cold corners of your corporate. In other words the corporate marks it as their Intellectual Property. As discussed earlier, the replication of software doesn’t hurt anybody in its pants but it surely stops the progress of the intellectual discovery that some bloke might do 5 years later. In other words it should be marked as Intellectual Knowledge and must be rotated around the developers community for further progress in it. Quoting Isaac Newton’s words, this would be sitting on the shoulders of giants.

I am not advocating Open sauce all the way but there should be a common ground. in that neither the Intellectual Property patent is breached nor the Intellectual Knowledge progress stops. At present this seems impossible. However, I beleive the way giants like IBM, CA etc. open sauce their past patents and further work gets started on those in the community, corporates will soon realize the need of Intellectual growth for active money punching patents too.


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