Mythics Blog

Reverse Engineering and Copyrights

Posted on April 16, 2013 by Sean Wang

Tags: Mythics Consulting

Companies use reverse engineering processes to improve their own products by analyzing other companies’ products, such as software.  Quite often, reverse engineering processes are used to ensure interoperability with a product.  In software development, reverse engineering is normally accomplished through the “clean room design,” so as to prevent potential copyright infringement.

Even though the fair use doctrine of the Federal Copyright Act allows reverse engineering of a program for interoperability as long as it is obtained legally, the Federal Court has ruled that reverse engineering is a breach of contract through shrink-wrap licenses.  In Bowers v. Baystate Technologies (320 F.3d 1317), a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that the software's End User License Agreement (EULA) forbidding users from reverse engineering overrides what is allowed under the Copyright Act.

Obviously, this ruling has a big impact on the software industry. So, as a vendor, to protect your software against potential reverse engineering, in addition to any technical security measures, it is imperative that you detail restrictions in the License Agreement. The EULA becomes the additional layer of defense for your intellectual properties.

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