July 12, 2016

IP concerns over Ricardian contracts

Just a short note to outline the intellectual property situation with Ricardian contracts.

When I invented the Ricardian Contract in 1995 - 1996, we (being Gary and myself and our company, Systemics) considered it to be standard engineering. It was what we felt any solid engineer would find if presented with the same problem. That was our mistake; it became slowly apparent that system after system failed to describe their contract of issue, and a non-trivial proportion of them foundered for that reason (although to be fair to their intent, a large number of those didn't want to describe the real details, and floundered as and when their hubris caught up with them).

Consequently we did not ever assert any intellectual property protections over the invention. The Ricardian Contract is, as far as I am concerned, an idea and concept in the public domain. No patents, no copyright, no trademarks have been filed, and none should ever be done given the time elapsed.

The design and implementation was fully published in 1996 when the first version of Ricardo was released as open source. There was a fair amount of documentation so you could clean-room engineer it if you wanted, although never enough for some :) It was finally described in its own academic paper presented in 2004, and before that there were a small number of other presentations and papers that described it (FC7, Erwin on XML).

I suppose it is possible that someone has filed patents on various extensions or variations that I've described and tracked in various places. But I've not heard of any, and nothing I've seen as yet changes the view that the entirety of that knowledge is public domain.

For the record, the recent work (Sum of all Chains - let's converge (video) or transcript and On the intersection of Ricardian and Smart Contracts) was likewise - presented openly with no assertion of intellectual property over the ideas within, and only the normal polite request to cite the author and link of those presentations. Otherwise, you are free to use.

iang, CARS

Posted by Prometheus at July 12, 2016 05:41 PM
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