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If researchers are prototyping a new type of network protocol, and I use their concepts to implement my own version (my way of doing it, 100% my code, different programming language, etc), are there any copyright or patent implications I should be aware of?

Would it make a difference if I open-sourced it versus sold as proprietary for profit?

Currently, the researchers have the source code available to download through Github.

I'm in the USA, if that makes any difference.

EDIT: I just noticed their README file on Github notes that they use the GNU Lesser General Public License (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/lgpl.html) which was chosen primarily because lots of their code base was ported from another Java project that I guess used it. I'm thinking that licensing versus patenting is still the issue, no?

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A license is a way of saying "I have certain rights and under the following conditions I will give you a subset of those right" the underlying rights could be copyright or patent or both. –  George White Aug 21 '13 at 2:51
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Writing your own code from scratch can avoid copyright issues, but patents can cover both internal techniques as well as the "the big picture" of the protocol. Your internal structures and operation may be different from other imlementations but most of the big picture aspects are unavoidable in your case.

Organizations that are very serious about producing code provably free of copyright problems use a clean room approach but this doesn't erase patent problems.

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Thank you for your response. –  armani Aug 20 '13 at 21:53
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