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Posted Oct 7, 2007 0:32 UTC (Sun) by man_ls (guest, #15091)
In reply to: NDAs by addw
Parent article: Linux driver project gets a full-time leader

The documentation necessary to build a device driver may be mixed with other things, not relevant to how the device works. For example, you might have electronics schematics, competition comparisons, or even future plans for the device. And the company might not want to devote the time needed to separate it. An NDA might specify that the developer may not divulge any information not relevant to the device driver.

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Posted Oct 13, 2007 12:03 UTC (Sat) by Duncan (guest, #6647) [Link]

That future plans clause is the one I've seen mentioned before in this
regard. In several hardware product areas (particularly embedded, think
cell phones and some of the individual components they contain), the
public lifetime of a product isn't much more than six months. This is
far too short a time to get a full driver written, start to finish, and
by the time it's out and stable, the product itself has long disappeared
and been replaced by new generations, perhaps not entirely different, but
enough different so adapting the drivers to match, then testing them,
takes yet another hardware generation, and the driver never /can/ catch
up with the software, even given reasonably decent support during 100% of
the public life of the product. That's especially the case considering
the kernel release cycle itself is 2-3 months, so even if development
started immediately and went without a hitch, it could be half the
product's publicly available life cycle before drivers are available in a
released kernel!

Enter these NDAs and developers willing to sign them; willing to work
with the company from long before the product is made public; from even
before product plans are finalized. This can be VERY competition
sensitive information, and the company is right to worry about it getting
into the wrong hands. A limited time NDA, expiring on most of the
technical data when the product goes public, but permanently covering
business plans and the like, even including stuff such as products that
never made the cut, for whatever reason, as that sort of info on the
process could be very damaging should it get into the competitor's hands,
can very well mean the difference in these cases between a working driver
available and in the released kernel at product release (meaning
development time of at least 90 days before that, time covered under NDA,
even if the drivers themselves are public), and one not available at all
during the actively available product lifetime.


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