Re: Who owns computer languages? (Fergus Henderson)
9 Nov 1997 12:00:15 -0500

          From comp.compilers

Related articles
Who owns computer languages? (Todd Evans) (1997-11-07)
Re: Who owns computer languages? (1997-11-09)
Re: Who owns computer languages? (1997-11-09)
Re: Who owns computer languages? (Gregory Bond) (1997-11-11)
Re: Who owns computer languages? (1997-11-11)
Re: Who owns computer languages? (1997-11-29)
Re: Who owns computer languages? (Fergus Henderson) (1998-01-18)
| List of all articles for this month |

From: (Fergus Henderson)
Newsgroups: comp.compilers
Date: 9 Nov 1997 12:00:15 -0500
Organization: Comp Sci, University of Melbourne
References: 97-11-043
Keywords: legal

Todd Evans <> writes:

>Recently I was reading a thread regarding the "ownership" of computer
>languages. The participants never really resolved the issue.
>This reason I ask is that our company would like to build a compiler
>and runtime that recognizes the syntax of a script language of a
>outside vendor's product.
>Our company lawyer is concerned that we might be infringing on the
>vendor's intellectual rights.

There are three things involved here:
- trademarks
- patents
- copyright

The other vendor will probably have trademarked the name of their
language, so you will have to use a different name for your version.

It is unlikely that the vendor will have any relevant patents, but it
is possible (for example, I believe that Microsoft have a patent on a
certain method for implementing virtual functions in languages such as
C++), so it may be worth checking this.

The vendor will have copyright protection for their implementation,
but if you're writing your own implementation from scratch, that won't
be a problem.

The vendor will also have copyright protection for their language
reference manual. The worry is that they might try to argue that your
implementation or your reference manual is a "derivative work" of
their language reference manual. I think it is very unlikely that
they could successfully argue that an implementation was legally a
derivative work of their reference manual, but you would need to be
very careful when writing your own reference manual.

One example of language ownership is the language Miranda [TM], which
is a trademark of (I believe) Research Software Pty Ltd. From what I
have heard, Research Software, who developed the language, were very
keen on ensuring that they retained ownership of the language; to that
end they were quite vigorous in defending their trademark by
threatening legal action. Nevertheless, they could not, or at least
did not, prevent someone from writing (and freely distributing) an
implementation of an almost identical language called "Miracula".

(ObDisclaimer: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, yadda yadda

Fergus Henderson <>
WWW: <>
PGP: finger fjh@
[That certainly agrees with my understanding of U.S. intellectual
property law. -John]


Post a followup to this message

Return to the comp.compilers page.
Search the comp.compilers archives again.