Two totally separate stories today highlight the importance of recognizing the difference between "owning" a piece of software and just "licensing" it (an issue that's getting some attention in the courts these days). First comes the story of the parking garage in New Jersey that operates with a giant parking robot that moves the cars around, making more efficient use of the space. There was a contract dispute with the company who runs the parking robot, and its employees were kicked off the premises, taking the intellectual property rights of the software that runs the robot with them -- leaving the giant parking robot and the cars it had parked stuck in park. Then, there's the story of a bunch of doctors offices who used some proprietary patient medical records software called Dr. Notes. The company behind Dr. Notes decided to raise their license fees by a huge amount -- and doctors who refused to give in suddenly discovered they could no longer access their patients' records, presenting a fairly serious problem for those whose well-being depend on their doctor knowing their medical history. In both cases, the companies providing the licenses recognized (correctly) that this allowed them a tremendous amount of leverage in any future contract negotiation, since they could (literally, in some cases) lock up their customers' most important assets. For companies buying technology products who think things like the details of intellectual property law and licenses don't matter, perhaps these stories will make them a little more aware of a few of the reasons why it's important to understand what you license and what you own -- and recognizing that you never want to trust your most important assets to an outside vendor.
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