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Embedded Systems Engineering
Standards Column
vol 11.4 June

Standards: Who cares?
The insurance companies care.

By Chris Hills

Chris Hills


I have to give the usual disclaimer that that these are my own personal views and not those of the ESE Editor and publisher. or those of my employer at the time..... I now work for Phaedrus Systems Ltd!


There is a 75% cut down version for print in ESE. The full one is on my web site at www.phaedsys.com Which you are now reading.


I have proof that at least two people read this column! One person emailed me regarding software patents, which is something, I have been warned about before but before I go there I have to correct some points first, I had another e-maiI pointing out some errors at the end of last month's column. So it is just as well that, as usual, these are my own views.<


The other email was from Chris Simpson, the Registrar for the International Register of Professional Engineers at the Engineering Council UK. www.engc.org.uk


It appears I got the list of the 7 countries in the Washington Accord wrong… Singapore is not one of them. Neither is it in the other Accords. Sorry if that causes any ones travel plans to change! Hong Kong is in the Accord though.


The Washington Accord has 8 members (Australia, Canada, Hong-Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, UK and USA);


The Sydney Accord (IEng level) has 7 members - as for the Washington Accord without USA involvement; Note that Incorporated. Eng is the level below C.Eng.


The Dublin Accord has 4 members (Canada, Ireland, South Africa, UK).


The Engineers Mobility Forum (which holds the International Register of Professional Engineers) has 11 full members: all 8 Washington Accord countries, plus Korea, Japan and Malaysia. As the USA is in this I assume that it is South Korea!


For a full explanation of these groups see the Engineering Council UK web site www.engc.org.uk

Chris Simpson also said:- "There is no linkage of which I am aware between the PE system and EUR ING." Though the brochure he sent me does say that Eur Ing holders are not normally required to take an aptitude test or undertake an adaptation period. So whilst there is no link as such there does seem to be an implied one. I shall find out when I get around to completing the forms.


Chris Simpson also pointed out that there is no formal requirement to register as a PE in the USA to be able to work as an engineer. Where there is direct contact with the public, this is a legal requirement. As the 20% registration of working engineers as PEs shows, most engineers do not seek this licensing. As long as there is a PE to sign off, the legal requirement is satisfied. This is the same as in the UK and various other countries where C.Eng (or equivalent) is required in some industries.


Chris Simpson speaks for the Engineering Council UK (ECUK) who set the registration standards, provides advice on registration matters, registers professional engineers and technicians for the three legally protected titles that they hold (CEng, IEng and EngTech), and is the signatory to the agreements and accords above.


For information about ECUK registration visit http://www.engc.org.uk/registration/

For information about ECUK Standards visit http://www.uk-spec.org.uk

For regular information about ECUK visit http://www.engc.org.uk/register_news/

In order to become a Chartered or Incorporated Engineer you will need to be a Member of one of the Engineering Institutes. In the embedded world, for both Hardware and software you should join the IEE. See http://www.IEE.org.uk The IEE can also assist with the Eur Ing as well for those who want to work in Europe. None of this is essential yet… but as I have said previously it is creeping in. Licensing and registration is there and it is becoming more of a requirement.


Software Patents

On to the other email I had: This was from Gordon who was concerned about Software Patents. There is a difference between copyright, patents and design registration. Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or legally qualified. You should follow up the sources and research this yourself (as was said to as Tabloid Editor recently).


Gordon said " There appears to be very little in the press about the Software Patent problem and I am sure it will affect you! There is a meeting of the Council of Ministers this month [May 2004] to decide if we go the USA route, I hope you are a "NO" to this and have written to your MP/MEP about your concerns?" Well… I hadn't given it much though. Should I?


I recall being told about software patents by one of the academics at Cambridge a year or two ago. He was "unhappy" about the US system, which is what now appears to be happening in Europe (and in this context the UK is part of Europe). His concern was that American business could patent almost anything and the US Patent Office issued the patent first and looked at it afterwards. In Europe they check first and then issued the patent. So, my understanding of it is: in the US you get the patent and they wait for challenges in the UK they look first to see that it is unique then issue. Obviously the UK system takes longer.


His concern was that it disadvantaged European companies taking things to the US to discover there was a recent US Patent on things that they had been making for years in Europe that were not patentable here. So it could be seen that this is a levelling of the playing field. Well, possibly, "yes" if you are a "big business". However the anti patents groups claim that Software patents could have disastrous affects for many small developers and businesses in this country and Europe! In fact in the US the only company to support software patents was Microsoft. They are also, as I understand it, the main supporter in the European lobbying for Patents. It all gets very convoluted so I have stolen the following summary from their web site: http://swpat.ffii.org/index.en.html


If Haydn had patented "a symphony, characterised by that sound is produced [ in extended sonata form ]", Mozart would have been in trouble.

Unlike copyright, patents can block independent creations. Software patents can render software copyright useless. One copyrighted work can be covered by hundreds of patents of which the author doesn't even know but for whose infringement he and his users can be sued. Some of these patents may be impossible to work around, because they are broad or because they are part of communication standards.

Evidence from economic studies shows that software patents have lead to a decrease in R&D spending.

Advances in software are advances in abstraction. While traditional patents were for concrete and physical inventions, software patents cover ideas. Instead of patenting a specific mousetrap, you patent any "means of trapping mammals" or "means of trapping data in an emulated environment". The fact that the universal logic device called "computer" is used for this does not constitute a limitation. When software is patentable, anything is patentable.

In most countries, software has, like mathematics and other abstract subject matter, been explicitly considered to be outside the scope of patentable inventions. However these rules were broken one or another way. The patent system has gone out of control. A closed community of patent lawyers is creating, breaking and rewriting its own rules without much supervision from the outside


This is the short over view. I recommend that you read the rest of it at http://swpat.ffii.org/index.en.html The site is produced by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure. This is a pan European organisation with many of its main members in Germany. .


The difference (as far as I can see) between copyright and patent is the copyright is for a piece of work: a poem, a letter, a painting (or prints thereof) a book or of course software. Who owns the copyright? That is a good one… See below


The problem is that at the moment whilst your source is copyright the idea itself may not be as you can't copyright ideas. It has been suggested to me that if a "Word Processor Program" had been patented only the patent holder could produce it. At the moment if you and I both write a word processor, as long as we don't copy each others (copyright) code, we can. However if I have the Word Processor Patent you can't produce a Word Processor. You can see why some large companies want software patents. It is expensive and time consuming to do a patent.


The Official launch of MISRA-C2 will be at the Embedded Systems Show 13th October at the NEC at 15:00 to 16:00. (See http://www.embedded.co.uk ) This will be in the FREE part of the conference in the forum on the exhibition floor. Phaedrus Systems Ltd, and hopefully LDRA and Programming Research will have copies for sale on the day. The following week will be the MISRA Forum run by MIRA. This will be held in Coventry as usual. I am running an unofficial and un-approved page www.misra-c.org where I will bu putting up information and relevant links.


Any questions, comments etc to Contact at Phaedsys


What is a copyright or Patent?

I stole these definitions from a document and web site both of which are probably copyright! The links are with the definitions. I am NOT a lawyer or legally trained. This is purely my unqualified opinion. You should obtain the authoritative information from the http://www.patent.gov.uk/: suitable patents lawyers etc as appropriate. I took this information from various documents from the Patents Office and their web site. Probably breaking copyright in the process! However, I feel justified if it gets a few more people to look at the information and saves problems for them in the future.

"As far as I can tell" the following are the definitions.



Copyright is exactly that the right of ownership of the "copy" or text. This is before photographs. Newspapers still refer to "copy" The following is stolen from the copyright introduction at http://www.patent.gov.uk/copy/index.htm which is the copyright section at the UK Patents Office.

Copyright is automatic! There is no official register for copyright. It is an unregistered right so there is no official action to take. Copyright comes into effect immediately, as soon as something that can be protected is created and "fixed" in some way, eg on paper, on film, via sound recording, as an electronic record on the internet, etc.


It is a good idea for you to mark your copyright work with the copyright symbol © followed by your name and the date, to warn others against copying it, but it is not legally necessary in the UK.

The type of works that copyright protects are: original literary works, e.g. novels, instruction manuals, computer programs, lyrics for songs, articles in newspapers, some types of databases, but not names or titles (see Trade Marks pages); original dramatic works, including works of dance or mime; original musical works; original artistic works, e.g. paintings, engravings, photographs, sculptures, collages, works of architecture, technical drawings, diagrams, maps, logos; published editions of works, i.e. the typographical arrangement of a publication; sound recordings, which may be recordings on any medium, e.g. tape or compact disc, and may be recordings of other copyright works, e.g. musical or literary; films, including videos; and broadcasts.

So the above works are protected by copyright, regardless of the medium in which they exist and this includes the internet. You should also note that copyright does not protect ideas. It protects the way the idea is expressed in a piece of work, but it does not protect the idea itself.

This was taken from http://www.patent.gov.uk/copy/index.htm Note the highlighted headings: Instruction Manuals, Computer Programs, Technical Drawings, Diagrams.



This is not a special case the author of the work is the owner… So if you employ a contractor to write your software he owns it! Just like the wedding photographer owns the picture he took at your wedding and the author the text of the book you own. Therefore if you are using contractors to write software for you: you should get them to sign over the ownership of the source code.

Design registration

The following was stolen from the UK Patents office introduction on Design Registration at http://www.patent.gov.uk/design/index.htm You should go there for the full information:-


What is a Design?
A registered design is a monopoly right for the appearance of the whole or a part of a product resulting from the features of, in particular, the: lines, contours, colours, shape, texture, materials, of the product or its ornamentation.


To qualify for registration, your design must:


1. be new which means that it must not be the same as any design which has already been made available to the public,



2. have individual character which means that the overall impression it produces on an informed user of the design must differ from the overall impression produced on such a user by any design which has already been made available to the public. In assessing individual character, we take into account the degree of freedom of the designer in creating the design. We cannot register designs which are: concerned only with how a product works, or for parts of complex products that are not visible in normal use, or contrary to law or morality.

Registration can last for a maximum of 25 years and is a property that, like any other business commodity, may be bought, sold, or licensed. A registered design is additional to any design right or copyright protection that may exist automatically in the design.

See also "How to apply to register a design"

This was stolen from the UK Patents office. It is interesting to note that: "we cannot register designs which are… … or contrary to law or morality." OK I get the contrary to law but morality? Does this mean you can't do a design registration for sex toys? How about military vehicles or weapons? If you have any doubts I suggest you contact the Patents Office.




The following was stolen from the UK Patents office introduction on Design Registration at http://www.patent.gov.uk/patent/index.htm You should go there for the full information:-


What is a Patent?

A patent for an invention is granted by government to the inventor, giving the inventor the right for a limited period to stop others from making, using or selling the invention without the permission of the inventor. When a patent is granted, the invention becomes the property of the inventor, which - like any other form of property or business asset - can be bought, sold, rented or hired. Patents are territorial rights; UK Patent will only give the holder rights within the United Kingdom and rights to stop others from importing the patented products into the United Kingdom.

What kinds of things do patents cover?

Patents are generally intended to cover products or processes that possess or contain new functional or technical aspects; patents are therefore concerned with, for example, how things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of or how they are made.
The vast majority of patents are for incremental improvements in known technology; it has been said that innovation is evolution rather than revolution.
Are there any special conditions that an invention must fulfil?

To be patentable your invention must:
Be new
Involve an inventive step
Be capable of industrial application
Not be "excluded"

An invention is not patentable if it is:

a discovery;
a scientific theory or mathematical method;
an aesthetic creation such as a literary, dramatic or artistic work;
a scheme or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business;
the presentation of information, or a computer program.

It is not possible to get a patent for an invention if it is a new animal or plant variety; a method of treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy; or a method of diagnosis.
See also: Benefits of patent protection and How to apply for a patent

NOTE the last line… "or a computer program." This is where the change will occur if the new rules come into play.




Author Details and contact


Eur Ing Chris Hills BSc CEng MIET MBCS MIEEE  FRGS   FRSA is a Technical Specialist and can be reached at This Contact


Copyright Chris A Hills  2003 -2008
The right of Chris A Hills to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988