Now enjoying my status as a sage of the industry, which is to say I am older than 20, but alas, not a billionaire, God fuck-it; people are all the time asking me for nuggets of wisdom from my vast experience at the top.
Quickies from marcf #3: What IP is there to protect in OSS?
B.D asks: "marcf, my open source project is starting to enjoy a measure of success, I am thinking of going professional with it, I am thinking about business models. How much thought should I put in protecting my Intellectual Property?"
Answer: B.D. protecting IP in OSS is extremelly important. The only "private" property that exists in OSS are 1- brand 2- URL. Both are obviously related but really you need to protect your brand name, in other words REGISTER your trademarks, use them, declare they are yours and enforce the trademark, meaning protect against infringement. Other products, specifically based on your product should not include your name. Consultancies will be able to say they know and work with your "product name" but they cannot ship products using your trademark. Educate yourselves on brand IP, that is a big asset in OSS.
The URL deserves the same treatment. A successful website with traffic is a source of revenue in this day and age, either directly through ad placement or indirectly by lead generation. There will be many people who try to hijack your name and your URL for their own business ends, it was always my view that they are simply committing THEFT.
B.D asks again: "but what about the code itself? should I protect the IP?".
Answer: Short of filing patents, there isn't much you can do in OSS. Let's face it the IP is there for everyone to see. If you are in a mode where a lot of the value is the code itself then open sourcing under GPL or equivalent reciprocal license may be a good choice for you. At least you will make sure that ISV's that re-use your license get in contact with you and many of them will pursue dual-licensing, a strategy that is known to work to monetize an OSS user base (mySQL).
However you will have little protection against thieves that want to copy what you have done without letting you know and put it under different licenses, I have seen it done, such is the nature of the beast.