0

I would like to know if I can legally create and sell a software that creates, opens, manages, and runs virtual machines for macOS.

I know that there are a lot of virtual machine software out there but I think that I have a shot since I think I figured out how to create fast and responsive virtual machines using the virtual machine software I am planning to develop.

So, is the general software concept of creating, managing, and running virtual machines legally-protected? How come there are a lot of virtual machine software out there that basically do the same thing but are not in legal trouble?

Also, how can I know if the feature I am planning to include will not lead me to legal trouble?

One last thing, about the EULA of these existing virtual machine programs, will they still be in effect after I uninstalled the existing virtual machine program I bought and deleted their installer files from my storage devices? Their EULA says that I cannot create derivative works. So does that mean when I uninstall these existing virtual machine programs from my computer and delete their installers I can then create derivative works?

Thanks!

1
  • It's alarming to see "figured out how to create fast ... VMs" and "is the general software concept of creating ... running VMs legally-protected" coming from the same mouth.
    – DannyNiu
    Aug 16, 2023 at 15:19

2 Answers 2

1

Virtual machines have been around for quite some time now. The first commercially offered VM system was from IBM with their System/360 but it was based on idea from MIT that were funded by DARPA. My patent search skills are not that great but even if this was patented then, in the early 1960's, those patents have long since expired. So the basic idea of a virtual machine is now unencumbered.

That being said, VMs are an area of ongoing research and development today and many aspects of VM operation have been patented. If you are going to develop a new and improved VM system you will want to do your own research to ensure that the parts of your system that you believe are unique have not already been patented by someone else. If your ideas are novel you may want to consider patenting them.

Your questions:

So, is the general software concept of creating, managing, and running virtual machines legally-protected?

They are protected the same as any other invention. Through patents and/or trade secrets. There are any number of companies today that hold various patents on various aspects of VM systems.

How come there are a lot of virtual machine software out there that basically do the same thing but are not in legal trouble?

The same way as any other invention. They either license the patented technologies or they find a non-infringing alternative and probably patent that themselves. In many cases the leading companies in theses area may have cross-licensing agreements.

Also, how can I know if the feature I am planning to include will not lead me to legal trouble?

You do your homework and determine if your ideas are already covered by someone else's patents. Or you simply proceed and wait to hear from someone that thinks you are infringing.

Their EULA says that I cannot create derivative works.

The EULA is still in effect regardless of whether the software is currently installed or not. (In my opinion at least.) So its terms bind you regardless. But what is a "derivative work"? Just because it's something that works similarly to another application doesn't make it a "derivative". Usually the EULA will define what they mean by derivative work and it almost always involves using the source code to create your own version or flavor of the original application.

You'll want to be sure you are creating an original application and not a derivative of someone else's application.

1

Can you legally create a virtual machine software? Yes, unless you commit copyright infringement by copying someone else software, or violate patents that others have on similar software, or if you signed an agreement with your previous employer not to create virtual machines and so on. But in principle there is no law against it. Just make sure that your virtual machine software is not a "derivative work" of anyone else's.

Can you create a virtual machine for MacOS? As far as I know Apple isn't trying to keep anyone from doing this. If the software runs on iOS, Apple wants you to provide it through Apple's App Store and it must survive their review process or won't be accepted.

Can I run any software on my virtual machine? That depends on the license of that software. You are allowed by Apple to install Apple software on one Apple labelled computer if the use is commercial or on any number of Apple labelled computers that you own or control for private use. So as long as the real physical hardware is Apple labelled you are fine. If you want to run Linux, Windows, Android etc. you have to check their license.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .