Intellectual Property

The Strange Odyssey of Software Interfaces and Intellectual Property Law

Author(s): Pamela Samuelson
Year: 2009

Abstract: This book chapter traces the strange odyssey of interfaces through various forms of intellectual property protection. Interface specifications were initially either public domain documents or protected as trade secrets, depending on whether or not they were published. For a time, it seemed as though sui generis protection would be the best way to deal with the interoperability challenges posed by programs, but then copyright became the norm for software protection. Whelan made it seem that interface specifications would be protectable by copyright law as program SSO. Altai and Sega, however, dashed those expectations. Software developers then shifted to patent protection for interfaces, as well as pinning their hopes on the enforceability of anti-reverse engineering clauses in software license contracts. Recent developments give hint of a new shift toward regulated licensing of patented interfaces. No other intellectual artifact has had a comparable tortuous journey through IP law.

Keywords: intellectual property