Code of (still) uncertain origin
Posted Aug 17, 2006 18:01 UTC (Thu) by jzbiciak
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In reply to: Code of (still) uncertain origin
Parent article: Code of (still) uncertain origin
If the knowledge required to program those registers is a trade secret covered under NDA, you could run afoul of trade secret laws if you disclose that information publicly.
Also, if the methods of controlling the hardware correctly are covered by patent protection, then you could run afoul of patent law. This isn't precisely a software patent issue, either. The "preferred embodiment" of an invention may be a combination of hardware and software together, where the software is doing something very specific with respect to the hardware.
(Patent aside: For instance, you can interpret the cams, gears, and clockwork that drive complex machines as the "program" for that machine, if by changing those cams, gears and other clockwork you can make the machine do something else useful. The entire machine, if novel, is patentable. If you replace one of the mechanical control pieces with a microcontroller and some software, you haven't really changed the character of the whole. I would argue the software based implementation is equally patentable without allowing so-called "software patents." The phrase "software patent" refers to pure-software, not intertwined hardware-software systems like this.)
The driver could also run afoul of any reverse engineering restrictions that the original driver had within its license. Whether or not those are enforceable is an open question. Nonetheless, do you really want to tangle with that?
And, as someone else pointed out, the code could be encumbered simply by the nature of the author's employment. His employment agreement may say they get first right of refusal to any code he writes on or off the clock in the fields of interest to his employer. (Or worse, that they own that code by default.)
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