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Re: New Vax - future directions :-)

> On Jul 6, 2021, at 1:38 PM, Anders Magnusson <ragge%tethuvudet.se@localhost> wrote:
> Den 2021-07-06 kl. 19:01, skrev Paul Koning:
>>> On Jul 6, 2021, at 12:47 PM, john%ziaspace.com@localhost wrote:
>>>> Right… it’s a pure load/store architecture with exactly one addressing mode.  The hypothetical VAX-64 that’s being discussed here is really just “make VAX bigger and address some annoyances”.
>>> (apologies that Pine is mangling NeXT Mail's quotes and apostrophes)
>>> Curious - what would the commercial implication be if, say, a new VAX architecture were to take shape in the FPGA world? Does anyone have "rights" to the ISA?
>> IANAL, but there probably are three parts to that question.
>> 1. Patents.  If any existed (likely) those are almost certainly long expired.
> I very much doubt anything I've written is covered by patents...

I doubt it too, but DEC took patents pretty seriously.  Given that patents last 20 years (give or take some adjustment relating to how slow the patent office is) I can't imagine that any VAX related patent is still alive.

>> 2. Trademarks.  Possible, so don't call it "vax".
> I searched the US trademark database, but it seems as all those old trademarks are dead.
> VAX was cancelled on March 11, 2016.  Somewhat late, but I assume HP just let it timeout.
> MicroVAX II was cancelled on April 16, 1996.
> Just "MicroVAX" was cancelled on June 13, 2008.


> Hm,  how do you register a trademark in the US? :-)

Look at the US patents and trademarks office website.  But the short answer is probably "talk to a lawyer who specializes in trademarks".

>> 3. Copyright.  I don't see how that can be applied to an ISA, though it clearly can be to a particular set of words describing it -- like the VAX SRM or DEC Std 032.  But a description of a new "inspired by VAX" architecture would be written with new words so that should be fine.
> Can an ISA even be copyrighted?  And could it be in 1977? :-)

As far as I can see, no and no.  Copyright applies to "expressions" -- for example, the words of a novel or of a product manual, or the source text of a program.  It does not protect concepts or ideas -- for example, the behavior of a program or the functions of a product.  If you describe a given product in your own words, or if you create a new program with new source code that behaves the same as an existing program, copyright doesn't apply to that.  (Give or take some details -- user interface visual appearance might be protected.)  So if I write a document describing an ISA, in my own words without copying from an existing document, I own the copyright of that document and no one else does, even though the ISA described to it happens to be 100% compatible with the ISA described in the VAX SRM.

All of the above is USA rules, which are the ones I know best, and given that we're talking about US designs these are also probably the most relevant ones.  Rules do vary.  For example, in the USA it is settled law that "sweat of the brow" work is not protected by copyright -- only "creative" work is.  So novels are protected, telephone directories are not.  An application of that principle is that in the USA, fonts are not protected by copyright (but their names can be trademarks).  This is how Corel was able to ship hundreds of well known fonts with their drawing program, rather clumsy copies -- but the names were all different.  "Swiss" instead of "Helvetica", "Gatineau" instead of "Garamond" and so on.  Also in the USA, works of the Federal government are always in the public domain.  These rules can be different elsewhere; I remember the UK has the notion of "Crown Copyright".


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