Patents are for babies: what every engineer should know about IP law

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 from 4:45 – 5:30pm in B302/303


Don't leave IP law to the lawyers!
Intellectual property law is a minefield wrapped in straightjacket sprinkled with arsenic-laced gumdrops. Invented for lawyers by lawyers, IP law makes many engineers resentful and dismissive. And yet most of us don't know enough about the details to protect ourselves and our own creations. This session will increase your understanding of how copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and open source licensing protect you, your code, your company, and your community.


In this session, Belinda will cover “IP Law 101,” and you will learn the differences between copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets, and will know which protections work in specific situations.

You will learn how to protect your code and your inventions, and you will build a richer understanding of how companies protect their code and why they choose certain protections over others.

You will learn how to protect your own work on open source, including how to navigate “Proprietary Information Agreements” (PIA’s) when joining a company as well as protecting your ability to continue working on open source projects and personal projects while working at your company.

We’ll also discuss software licensing. You’ll be able to identify who owns open source contributions, and you will leave better armed on how to handle licensing concerns for your project as well as be a more discerning consumer of other projects and their licenses. Lastly we’ll talk about how to make your open source projects more inviting for companies and developers by having community-friendly licenses and contribution guidelines and/or license agreements.

Belinda developed the training for engineers related to all things licensing and IP at New Relic, and she regularly inspects licenses and all matter of weird IP concerns as part of her job at New Relic as an engineering manager. And while she’s proud to note that she is, in fact, NOT a lawyer, she finds herself attracted to issues of law and policy where it overlaps with software and open source.


Open Source, law, licensing, IP

Speaking experience

Belinda has spoken at DrupalCon, PyLadies, and in front of various developer groups and user groups that are too ancient to bear mentioning.


  • Spotlight runkle


    Belinda is an engineering manager at New Relic, working with the agent teams for Linux, Node.js, PHP, and Python. Belinda loves helping engineers to make really amazing tools for developers. Belinda has participated in Pyladies meetups, Hackbright events, WomenInIT, and other women-in-engineering happenings. When she isn’t fighting the good fight, you’ll probably find her at a Portland Thorns game or frolicking in one of Portland’s lovely parks with her dogs.