Intellectual Property and Software-Copyright
At some point you may wonder if you should protect the intellectual property (IP) of your software. Although it can help prevent any infringements it is also a long and costly process so it helps to establish if it is worth doing. To be sure you are doing the right thing you should always take professional legal advice. This article cannot compensate for that, but we hope it can give some insights.
What is Software-Copyright?
Copyrights are assigned to artistic work, they establish the authorship of the idea rather than the idea itself. In software terms, this refers to the code. In practice, this means that if another developer accessed your work and then made the same code they could be infringing the copyright. This does not stop them from producing the code independently — if they had not accessed your work their code would be legal. To gain copyright protection either publish your work online or file with the US Copyright Office. This means people have access to the work and makes it more likely that you could prove that another developer had accessed the code.
What are Software-Patents?
These provide limited-time protection — usually around 15-20 years — and relate to an invention or idea. Patents are granted following an application to the US. Patent Office. An invention may only be patented if it meets certain criteria including having a useful application, it must be new, not obvious and fall into one of the patent-able categories which are extended all the time as a reflection of societal change. If you want to patent your IP you must show a real-world application.
Is it worthwhile getting a Software Patent?
This depends on the situation — many people want a patent to protect from competitors but to get one they have to disclose unique information. Disclosing the idea may in and of itself mean that the competitive advantage is lost. It can take a lot of time to get the process — sometime years. Software changes rapidly so by the time you receive the patent it could be out of date and your time and money have been wasted.
What are the other options?
You can protect your work in other ways, for example, getting your product to market rapidly. You could publish it in a medium that no one else can patent, for example, on the public domain. Being first on the market always provides a competitive advantage so getting the product up to speed and out and then publishing may be the way forward.
Seek Legal Advice
We hope that this information has proved helpful but remember it is not a substitute for legal advice. If you decide that you want to apply for a patent always find a good patent lawyer with a working knowledge of software applications.
If you’re looking for a company that provides System Integration and other software development services contact us.