Free licenses actually can't make software completely free. Software can be protected not only by copyright, but also by trademarks, design rights and patents.
The perfect illustration is Tinder. Let me just show you IP protection of Tinder in US.
Match Group, LLC, the owner of Tinder, has the trademark right for the word SWIPE. The trademark is protected for "computer application software for mobile devices, namely, software for social introduction and dating services". So, no one may use this mark in US for the same or similar products.
Moreover, the very swiping is protected by the design patent. I mean, not the very idea of swiping, but the design of this. Anyway, it's a nice IP solution.
The design for a display screen when organizing group meetings is patented too. Fun fact: in Russia this function of Tinder isn't a popular function, but I still don't know why 🤷
The algorithm for profile matching is also protected by the patent. So, event if the program code of Tinder was free or Match Group's copyright to it was challenged, the Tinder's method for matching would be still protected.
Finally, Match Group can protect its rights through competition law and some other legal ways that don't require any registration of rights.
Let's make two conclusions:
1. Free licensing is not a panacea. If something is licensed under GNU General Public License or any of Creative Commons licenses etc., it still doesn't mean that it 100% may be copied. Please keep this in mind.
2. If you want people to know that they are allowed to copy your product freely, don't forget to add at least a promise to not sue them for a trademark or a patent infringement.
In Europe programs cannot be patented, or can it?
@ashwinvis It depends on what you mean by "programs". I mean, a program seems to me to be a complex of difefferent objects: program code, algorithm, design, brand, maybe something else. Each of these objects can be protected by different legal instruments, and it doesn't depend on whether the "program" is protected or not.
Very nicely put. 👍
It seems to me that they're useless other than as a financial asset. The idea of using patents for competitive advantage is utter pants unless you have very deep pockets.
@0 I'm actually not very good in business stratagies 😅 But as I know from my clients, who are SME, it's may be very important for investors that intangible assets of a startup are protected. The problem is that necessary protection sometimes is very expensive, so SME have to spent a lot of money to get a lot of money 🤷♀️
This case is really interesting. What's your opinion on them trademarking a word that is a common action when using software on mobile devices?
The question is whether this word was common in 2013, when the trademark had been applied. If yes and Match Group didn't prove that the word has a strong association with them, then registration was wrong.
Anyway, it's also possible to cancel the registration, but it's necessary to prove that the word lose its distinctiveness and has become a common one.
I'd add that in this case "common" means that a word directly describes goods or services that the trademark is registered for. If a word is common only in the meaning that it's not fictional, it's not a problem to trademark it. It's ok, that Apple has a trademark "Apple" ))
@VGM Tinder isn't foss though. Can we talk about a better example such as firefox, rather than saying like "foss doesn't work because non-foss software is patented"?
@kline I didn't say that "foss doesn't work because non-foss sofrware is pantent". The thread was actually not about "foss doesn't work". Of course FOSS works. The question is what "works" means and where are the limits of this work.
I faced with a case where a significant part of an open and free project was monopolized by third party's trademark rights. This is a real threat to projects that have not got all necessary trademark rights first.
@VGM I think you could make your case much more compelling if you spoke about, firefox "vs" debian, which is actually an instance where two foss orgs came to blows over how free software could be used within the license, but also with respect to non-GPL issues like trademarks and copyrights.
@VGM of course, if there's more context to it, it would be cool to read specifically the jumping off point into why this is interesting, but it's hard as an interested reader to find out what tinders patent warchest has to do with "free licenses actually can't make software completely free".