27 April, 2009

Testing Intellectual Property Information

Intellectual Property (IP) are legal property rights over creations of the mind, both artistic and commercial, and the corresponding fields of law. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; ideas, discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs. Common types of intellectual property include copyrights, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights and trade secrets. The term intellectual property denotes the specific legal rights described above, and not the intellectual work itself.

Licenses, copyrights, trademarks, patents information are often shipped with the product to the customer. Providing this information indicates to the stakeholders that anybody who encroaches on any of these will have to face legal implications. How often do we as testers focus EULAs(End User License Agreement), Copyrights Information, Trademarks and the patented technology information used in building the product.To a normal tester, these look like the usual boring stuff to read about and he/she would blindly end up clicking the Next/Proceed button as applicable and focus on the so-called 'more important test areas'. For an attentive tester, it only opens up a lot of opportunities to discover very expensive defects.

The EULA Story: Just Imagine that you as a end user ignored the EULA of a new product you recently installed. One fine day, you realise all of a sudden that your system is too slow to respond. The first thought that would come to your mind is 'What was the recent change I made to the system'. The installation of the new product? Do not end up cursing the product! The EULA had warned you of possible problems with the regular updates for the product which you would have known if you had read it! Now you would only spend more time getting your system back to its original speed.

Wanna Copy: From a legal perspective, it is very dangerous when someone else discovers that you have copied exactly their ideas! This is when copyright laws come into picture. In the corporate world, if you are not aware of the copyright laws, and knowingly or unknowingly recreate or copy those ideas, then are in deep trouble if the original creator gets to know it. You may even get sued!

These Symbols are Mine: A trademark identified by the symbols ™ (not yet registered) and ® (registered), is a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization or other legal entity to identify that the products and/or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or services from those of other entities. It is important to ensure that these are used carefully in the products.

Patent it: Product X is released with a set of patents A,B,C. When the next version of the same product Y is going to be released, but coded using a completely new technology, how far are the patents A,B,C going to be relevant? Should we blindly do a copy-paste of the older patents in the patents information section for the new product? OR should we validate and evaluate the existing list? The answer is a BIG NO! It is a safe thing to revisit the list of patents or third party software used(if any) and provide an updated list.

The above listed ones are highly neglected while testing. It could be because it involves lot of patience, validating the rights and wrongs of it with the Product Management team, verifying the information to the minutest details with the Legal counsel of the organization etc. There could be several reasons to let go of it by not testing it, but even a silly reason cannot save the company of the trauma and financial troubles that such negligence can bring in. Next time around, you encounter these in your testing, make a choice and a good one at that. Like Subroto Bagchi says 'When we make a choice, we must know that each choice entails a set of consequences and we cannot wish away that responsibility.

Happy Testing,
Pari - http://curioustester.blogspot.com/