[TUHS] System Economics

Wesley Parish wes.parish at paradise.net.nz
Fri Mar 17 09:46:49 AEST 2017

In relation to which, a google search on "site:groklaw.net unix methods" yields some interesting 
observations on this very topic of "trade secrets" wrt Unix.

Wesley Parish

Quoting Paul Winalski <paul.winalski at gmail.com>:

> On 3/16/17, Doug McIlroy <doug at cs.dartmouth.edu> wrote:
> > "Open" was certainly not a work heard in the Unix lab,
> > where our lawyers made sure we knew it was a "trade secret".
> > John Lions was brought into the lab both because we admired
> > his work and because the lawyers wanted to reel that work
> > back in-house.
> That matches my recollection: AT&T treated the UNIX sources as a
> trade secret. When I worked on DEC's port of the VAX/VMS linker to
> Ultrix, our team was very careful to work from the a.out specification
> only, and to avoid any contact with the sources to ld. We wanted to
> avoid any chance of AT&T claiming that our VMS linker port in any way
> used their proprietary technology.
> AT&T made the sources available pretty widely in academia, for use as
> a teaching tool, and some of the universities involved seemed to play
> pretty fast and loose with the NDA. A lot of CS students I talked to
> were under the impression that the UNIX sources were freely open and
> hackable at their college. Because of this I always wondered whether,
> if push came to shove, AT&T would be able to legally enforce its trade
> secret claims. I don't think the issue was ever actually litigated.
> -Paul W.

"I have supposed that he who buys a Method means to learn it." - Ferdinand Sor,
Method for Guitar

"A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on." -- Samuel Goldwyn

More information about the TUHS mailing list