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Oracle vs Google redux: Appeals court says APIs CAN TOO be copyrighted

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Probably the death knell of the "industry"

Well, frankly I have had it.

The whole bunch of leeches and sucking cancers can't end soon enough. Everyone in his own proprietary little silo, throwing shit against the padded walls.

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

It probably is. If there is no minimum number of lines of code before it becomes copyright infringement may I be the first to wave goodbye to:

printf("Hello World");

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

> Well, frankly I have had it.

The problem is that the legal and political systems have become so divorced from the real world and common sense that they are scarce relevant to you, I and everyone else.

That tax dollars/pounds are being hoovered up to pay for this farce is the real crime here.

I really don't know how we say enough is enough to these people.

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POSIX/ECMA everywhere

It is clearly time to dump proprietary protocols and APIs, go with Posix or ECMA where you can.

The writing was on the wall when Sun withdrew their Java submission to ECMA in 1999. Oh well, there are other ways to write portable code....

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Pirate

Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

Dear PeterGriffin,

On behalf of our client, Codemageddon, Inc., I hereby issue you with an order to cease and desist.....

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

"Popularity voids Copyright"

Interesting idea... Did Google just try to sneak its implied right to steal the Linux kernel or any GPL work.

Now _THAT_ would be the death knell of the industry as we presently know it.

Do no evil my a**e. Cucking Funts...

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

Agreed, and some contributors to this thread appear to be of the view, if you have a dispute with someone but consensus on The Register is such that your position is the less supported, you should be denied access to the legal system. Never mind that common sense says if Sun retain copyright but such API's use is allowed under fair use, that would seem to be the right ruling. People forget rulings like this apply to cases far beyond the current case and where different matters might be under dispute.

To me it seems entirely correct such API's are considered a part of Sun's work product but that they should be usable by another company under fair use. That may well be the ruling that results here. If in the future there is a case where a company has ripped off API's plus implementation code (which hasn't happened in this case), it is reasonable that because, through theft of the latter, they have shown a certain intent, they can then be said to have gone beyond fair use so have also thieved the former. Such a distinctions are important when e.g. calculating damages. If API's are divorced from copyright entirely, subtleties like this are lost.

It seems to me the legal system is there to examine the law from all angles and refine it. Commentards alighting on a single issue with pitch forks and bales of burning hay, singularly fail to do so.

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

What subtleties? An API is a list of function names. It's a set of ingredients for making application soup.

Lists aren't granted copyright protection.

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

Lists aren't granted copyright protection.

Funny didn't the Ministry of Sound try to sue Spootify for stealing their lists?!

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

They did, and in the end the settled out of court, presumably because Spotify realised it couldn't afford to match MoS's legal budget.

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

Scarcely relevant, yet they regularly ruin lives and good work. Why do we as a society allow lawyers and judges to make decisions they're totally unqualified to make?

I see an upside - maybe, just maybe, developers will stop using 3rd-party APIs willy-nilly.

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

actually google said something like "java api is industry standard therefore we can use it" ... it appears to be the judge who spun it into "popularity voids copyright". The judge here looks like they have "owner instinct" not "user instinct"

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

I don't know if I agree with the opinion(s) or not (frankly not that interested to dive so deep), but you get an upvote for the thoughtful and well presented analysis.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

> It seems to me the legal system is there to examine the law from all angles and refine it.

If only that's what was going on here.

Patents, copyrights and trademarks are supposed to promote the public good. Companies bashing each other over and over for years and years on the same friggin' issue is one thing but the uncertainty of the law caused by these long-lasting disputes affects us all. The public good is not served by this constant in-fighting.

What people also seem to forget is that money spent on these disputes could be better spend on R&D, making better and cheaper products for us all. Unfortunately, the bean counters and in charge and they don't tend to have very long term views on these things.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

printf("Goodbye World");

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

Everyone's life is a proprietary little silo and so is every individual or corporation's work. If you bothered to look at the APIs in question you'd have noticed they were plainly copied. Sun put a lot of work into Java and Oracle threw a lot of money after it. Having Google simply take it, against their license, which only extended to desktop java, and then either claim fair use or that really a desktop's pretty much the same thing as a mobile device and therefore the license was valid and all that crap is simply stealing. I would love to see how most everyone here would react to someone "fairly using" a few years worth of their life's work, making a fortune off it and telling them to get lost in the process.

Two different people or teams developing the same functionality independently would never end up with the same class hierarchy, the same method signatures, the same variables. Never. There's just too much room for creativity in software so that would just never happen, not even for the simplest piece of software let alone something of the complexity and breadth of coverage such as the Java APIs.

If anything, this is probably one of the few high-profile sane decisions rendered recently. Imagine a full class hierarchy not being copyrightable but a slider button or rounded corners being totally innovative, revolutionary, copyrightable and patentable. Is the irony/absurdity obvious enough?

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

"If you bothered to look at the APIs in question you'd have noticed they were plainly copied."

And if you bothered to read up on the case you'd have noticed that this wasn't in dispute. Google were quite clear that they'd implemented the Java APIs. It was their view that these APIs constituted a non-copyrightable specification and as long as they produced a clean-room implementation they were entitled to copy the spec.

But 9 lines? Really? Out of however many thousand?Given that the function *has* to perform the same task and presumably *ought* to do so with the minimum of overhead? And given that Oracle's lawyers clearly had hundreds of such functions to *choose* from, hunting around until they found one that happened to alight on a particularly similar source form? Sorry, lawyers, but if 9 lines is all you can come up with then *that's* evidence of a deliberate and careful attempt to *avoid* copying. You've just proved the other guy's case.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

Yeah, and books are just lists of lines so can't fall under copyright. Right.

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Re: POSIX/ECMA everywhere

ISO standards can still be patented.

Or now that APIs are valuable, the patent troll law firm that now owns the original company can claim all sorts of excuses why the ISO process was invalid

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

The 'number of lines copied' is a spurious argument. There's not a single point of US law, nary a one, that is absolute and does not recognize a gray area. It's kind of neat, the whole fucking system is designed with that in mind. There are even processes for establishing how big that gray area is, on a case by case basis.

The way the IP lawyers are positioning things in nearly every infringement case is a digital, yes/no equation that completely undermines one of the core building blocks of our entire legal system. It's unfortunate that judges don't have more latitude in controlling how cases are argued, but they don't.

They've got to sit by and watch as stupid, middle manager logic, kicks holes in a system specifically designed to take common sense and situational variables into account. Fuck 'em. Burn the lawyers.

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Facepalm

Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

If you bothered to look at the APIs in question you'd have noticed they were plainly copied.

In this thread: Eejits who don't know about APIs and didn't bother to read the article.

If anything, this is probably one of the few high-profile sane decisions rendered recently

In this thread: Eejits who have no idea what they are talking about.

Two different people or teams developing the same functionality independently would never end up with the same class hierarchy, the same method signatures, the same variables. Never.

In this thread: Eejits who have no idea about coding.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

Google clearly ripped off Java from Oracle, and the day of reckoning is coming. Google are already getting spanked by Nokia, Microsoft and Apple for exactly the same type of behaviour.

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

"I really don't know how we say enough is enough to these people."

How about: "Not for sale or use in the United States of America"

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

> Google clearly ripped off Java from Oracle, and the day of reckoning is coming

Android was using Java before Oracle even acquired Sun Microsystems, the company that actually designed Java and also the company that gave its blessing for Google to use it.

> Google are already getting spanked by Nokia, Microsoft and Apple for exactly the same type of behaviour.

Take a look at OS marketshare and ask who's really getting spanked. From the look of things, Microsoft's in a death spiral, Nokia's already collapsed because of its decision to go Microsoft platform exclusive, and Apple's sales have been stagnating for some time. Why do you think the aforementioned companies have resorted to the legal system to fight their competitor? Because they're getting spanked.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

"the company that actually designed Java and also the company that gave its blessing for Google to use it."

Apparently not a legally binding blessing.

"Take a look at OS marketshare and ask who's really getting spanked."

Microsoft earn far more directly from Android licensing than Google do!

"From the look of things, Microsoft's in a death spiral"

Doesnt seem so from their results: http://www.forbes.com/sites/charleyblaine/2014/04/24/microsoft-results-beat-estimates-cheer-investors/

Considering the PC industry is to some degree in decline, Microsoft seem to be doing very well.

"Nokia's already collapsed because of its decision to go Microsoft platform exclusive"

Nokia returned to profit before they sold their phone division to Microsoft from several years of losses, so clearly going Windows Phone actually turned them around - especially since Microsoft partially helped to fund the development of more modern hardware plaforms via support payments. The only OEM that makes any significant money out of Android is Samsung - so going to Android wouldnt have likely helped Nokia recover any faster - if at all.

However - if the market changes and Android is for some reason the way forwards, then Microsoft now have their own Android platform - without any Google Spyware - thanks to the purchase of Nokia's devices arm.

"Apple's sales have been stagnating for some time"

Yep - at the last count I saw, Windows Phone now outsells Apple's iPhone in 25 countries.

"Why do you think the aforementioned companies have resorted to the legal system to fight their competitor. Because they're getting spanked."

Because what their 'competitor' is doing is currently illegal in the USA and was clearly ripping off Oracle's Java platform - regardless of if you think the law is right or not to allow such things as APIs to be protected. Google are not spanking Oracle in any market segments I am aware of - they hardly compete!

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FAIL

@ AC -- Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

Yeah, and books are just lists of lines so can't fall under copyright. Right.

That's the dumbest thing I've read this month. No, books are not lists. The table of contents is a list. IANAL (which is a good thing, because I like sleeping at night), but I don't think a table of contents is copyrightable.

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

API's are not just lists they also have defined behaviours some expected and some unexpected!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

APIs (e.g. the interface that describes the library, not the library itself) are

purely functional.

You don't write them for fun. You don't write them as an exercise in whimsy.

You do them for purely functional reasons, so that his program X can talk to

your library Y.

They are not the equivalent of chapter titles in a Harry Potter book (as argued by

Oracle). They are the PAGE NUMBERS in a Harry Potter book.

Copyright is not supposed to protect functional creations, whether they be APIs,

or the order of the pedals in a car, or whether pulling back the yoke in a plane makes

it go up.

If it's functional and it's innovative enough you use patents.

The original judge was very clear on this matter. The appeals court have shoved

their collective wise heads up their collective wise asses and if it sticks the industry

will suffer.

Especially the industries of any small companies that make "compatible" products

for X, Y or Z. If Oracle pull this off then ouch.

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

At least the death knell of Java.

What's next? Will Oracle go after IBM and OpenJRE?

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

> Nokia returned to profit before they sold their phone division to Microsoft from several years of losses, so clearly going Windows Phone actually turned them around

Nokia, the whole company, did make a small profit. The phone division, the part sold to Microsoft, still made a loss in spite of being given a $billion a year. Yes, going WP did "turn them around", from being the largest phone company to nearly dropping off the top ten*.

> Yep - at the last count I saw, Windows Phone now outsells Apple's iPhone in 25 countries.

Yes, but that is because you only look at stats that support your spin. In that particular case it was for a very short time last year just before the new iPhone was released. Most of those countries are ones that Apple doesn't ship to.

> Google are not spanking Oracle in any market segments I am aware of

Given that you seem to only being aware of what comes over your direct feed from MS marketing then it is not surprising that you don't know about J2ME/Java ME.

* Nokia are 9th in smartphones for 2013 - http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/

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Re: Probably the death knell of the "industry"

>How about: "Not for sale or use in the United States of America"

Swifttech (water cooling) already do that and that's fine by me. Let the US stew in its own overpriced monopoly markets.

But I think this is different. APIs are a list of things which a language/library can do. Since software is infinitely malleable It seems reasonable that more than one language/library would be able to do those things and should be allowed to advertise as such. As has been subtly mentioned, printf is an API call. No, it shouldn't be copyrightable as a nod to common sense. Additionally, if fair-use is defined as a % of total code copied, the APIs will almost certainly fall in that scope.

The desktop/mobile argument is also flawed. Sorry Oracle, but the original idea doesn't make sense, especially if you allow laptops to qualify as desktops.

Personally, if I were the judge hearing Oracle's arguments, I'd throw them out as being deliberately nonsensical to the point of operating in bad faith. Let that be a lesson to those who say one thing for marketing/sales and then try to use small-print to implement the opposite.

Even if this went against Google, all you'd get is a phone from Samsung which boots up the first time with a ROM clever enough to download an install image from elsewhere. Android would be spun off to another company. But that won't happen. Too popular to stop is probably a reality and we all know how adept multinationals are at not making taxable profit.

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Appeal for an "en banc" ruling ?

As this was not decided by the full bench of the appeal court - can Google ask for an "en banc" ruling - ie from the full court rather than from this three judge panel ?

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Re: Appeal for an "en banc" ruling ?

They can, but it would probably make more sense to appeal to the Supreme Court so they can get the final say more quickly.

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Re: Appeal for an "en banc" ruling ?

That assumes a final decision is the desired outcome. Rather, a final decision this quarter or fiscal year. The costs of ongoing litigation, for all parties involved, is not reflected in regulatory financials. The costs of the suit, as well as awards and/or penalties are effectively calculated in limbo until any and all appeals have been exhausted and there's no way possible to get a different verdict.

Obviously, I'm not privy to the internal financial and legal plotting at either of the companies in this story, but the timing of legal motions with respect to regulatory filings is common business. On track to have a super year? Hustle everything up, finish the case and the costs get lost in the confusion. The reverse is too as well. If you'd rather not have all those costs crop up right now just keep filing motions. They could've settled this long, long ago, but the stars haven't been properly aligned for the financial voodoo of either party.

It's really hard to say for certain, maybe they do want a decision soon. I just wanted to point out that court cases aren't always as straightforward as they appear.

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@DougS -- Re: Appeal for an "en banc" ruling ?

They can, but it would probably make more sense to appeal to the Supreme Court so they can get the final say more quickly.

Interesting concept. In general, this Supreme Court and common sense don't usually exist in the same space at the same time. However, we have the unusual scenario here where two $GIANT_CORPs would be squabbling in front of this Corporatist court, with any result having a large impact on all other $GIANT_CORPs. No politics involved. Hmmm....it is possible that we might actually get a reasoned decision from this court in such a case.

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Anonymous Coward

I've been infringed

Oracle copied the O from my copy righted works, one of which is my name. Where do I sue?

FN Tosser.

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Holmes

I never thought I'd say this, but...

I agree with 'orrible on this one..as referenced elsewhere, the Appeals courts (Fed circuit, used to be patent courts) almost always side with the patent holder (or in this case, purported copyright holder). So it looks like this will get bounced up to the supremes (hey ladi ladi lo...) (sorry) unless something happens en banc....

Hmmm....wasn't Java supposed to be open source?

And what's this with Amazon patenting photos against a white background...hmmm...could be eBay will have something to say about that (not to mention just about every profi photographer who ever lived.....)....

I think Douglas Adams pegged it with the intro to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

'This was the gist of the notice. It said "The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate."

This has led to some interesting consequences. For instance, when the Editors of the Guide were sued by the families of those who had died as a result of taking the entry on the planet Tralal literally (it said "Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts often make a very good meal for visiting tourists: instead of "Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts often make a very good meal of visiting tourists"), they claimed that the first version of the sentence was the more aesthetically pleasing, summoned a qualified poet to testify under oath that beauty was truth, truth beauty and hoped thereby to prove that the guilty party in this case was Life itself for failing to be either beautiful or true.

The judges concurred, and in a moving speech held that Life itself was in contempt of court, and duly confiscated it from all those there present before going off to enjoy a pleasant evening's ultragolf.” '

Sometimes truth is indeed stranger than fiction...

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Wasn't Java suppsoed to remain "open source"

I may have not remembered this correctly, but wasn't part of the deal to buy Java that it remain "open source?"

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Re: Wasn't Java suppsoed to remain "open source"

That was the original intention... Java everywhere, by everyone. In the late 1990s, Sun submitted Java to ECMA to become an open standard, but then withdrew that in 1999.

That was at the height of the dot.bomb hype and perhaps Sun thought they had something that would make them very wealthy.

Unfortunately for them , withdrawing Java really gave MS a leg up and allowed them to play their .NET card.

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Re: Wasn't Java suppsoed to remain "open source"

What happened when Oracle bought? I thought the deal required it to remain open source?

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Re: Wasn't Java suppsoed to remain "open source"

OpenJDK is GPLv2 licensed[1]. But Andriod is not Java and won't pass the compatibility suit tests and it's not based on OpenJDK.

btw the rangeCheck function is now reduced to just 2 lines of code - so this claim is really bogus b/c the implementation takes like 2-4min top.

However Android initially being ripped off Java but incompatible was a very uncool move. Personally I believe software patents must be abolished even though IMO Google was in the wrong in this case.

[1]:http://download.java.net/openjdk/jdk7/

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wasn't Java suppsoed to remain "open source"

"withdrawing Java really gave MS a leg up and allowed them to play their .NET card"

That Java has been a security nightmare, a multiple version compatibility nightmare and an inefficient and slow mess compared to .Net has far more to do with .Net's success in the market than Java's licensing arrangments.

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Re: Wasn't Java suppsoed to remain "open source"

The OpenJDK is published under the GPL with Classpath Exception. In reading through the appeal ruling, although I saw the GPL mentioned at the beginning, I did not see any place where Google asserted that they used the GPL source code. Perhaps this is because they originally did not want to publish their changes to the sources as is required by the GPL.

The GPL enables derived works. It does not require compatibility of the derived works with the preceding works. The Classpath Exception enables independent libraries to be linked with the GPL code without interfering with licensing. This is identical in concept to the LGPL used by everyone running commercial applications written in C and C++ on Linux. It appears that Google did not use the OpenJDK and claim the GPL with Classpath Exception as part of its defense. My assumption is either that Google did not use the OpenJDK, or that it became available after Android was initially developed, and Google either did not switch to the OpenJDK, or did so, but was prevented from claiming the GPL during the original trial.

The OpenJDK continues to be available for anyone that wants to use it, or fork it and modify it in anyway desired under the GPL.

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WTF?

W. T. F.

"Google had also submitted expert testimony to the effect that copyright is the wrong legal standard by which to judge software code, and that software should be patentable but not copyrightable."

Not only is Google completely wrong on this, I would say even presenting the argument is evil. Copyright is and always has been the proper method of protection for code, and patents are the wrong standard.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: W. T. F.

@Oninoshiko, I came here to say exactly what you have said. Good (wo)man.

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Re: W. T. F.

Glad someone else noticed this. Google is willing to chuck copyright over code and argue that instead we should use software patents?

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Re: W. T. F.

> Not only is Google completely wrong on this, I would say even presenting the argument is evil. Copyright is and always has been the proper method of protection for code, and patents are the wrong standard.

I was surprised at that comment in the article too, since I don't remember hearing that come up in previous coverage of this case (not that my memory of such matters is to be particularly relied upon). However, I can see an argument that the assertion in question could be appropriately applied to software APIs, which makes me wonder whether someone hasn't got their technical details in a twist.

Then again, lawyers gonna lawyer.

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Re: W. T. F.

You patent a non-trivial concept. You copyright a non-trivial implementation. Both seem to apply.

I suppose that means you could copyright portions of the patent applications, and then patent the idea of doing so.

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