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Software Inventions Eligibility for Patenting

Software Patents vs. Copyrights

Software engineers often wonder whether a patent or copyright is the best approach for them to stop others from copying their software inventions. 

Initially, a copyright appears to be the better approach.  For instance, obtaining a registered copyright is typically a much simpler and less resource-intensive process than filing for a software patent. 

Yet, a copyright is only directed toward the expression of the software invention.  For example, a software engineer may develop a unique system architecture and code it in Java®.  The software engineer may then file for a copyright and think that no one can copy the idea for that system architecture.  The copyright would help the software engineer prevent copying of the exact, or almost exact, system architecture as coded in Java®.  But that copyright may not necessarily prevent another engineer from coding the exact same idea in C++ or from coding the exact same idea as a different expression (e.g., different routines, sub-routines, etc.) in Java®. 

In other words, a copyright is typically not a strong mechanism for preventing copying of the idea behind a software invention; that is where a software patent typically has the advantage over a copyright.  By filing for a software patent, a software engineer can attempt to broaden the scope of what cannot be copied.  Since software patents emphasize the idea of the invention rather than the expression of the invention, software patents may prevent more potential copiers of the software invention than copyrights.[1]      

Accordingly, Patent Ingenuity, P.C. emphasizes the procurement of software patents as opposed to copyrights in most instances.[2]

Our San Jose patent attorney office specializes in assisting software companies of all sizes with building a strong patent portfolio. For a complimentary consultation with a software patent lawyer, contact us at (408) 273-4508

[1] The author is not asserting that a copyright can never be stronger than a software patent but rather is providing a general synopsis.

[2] The information provided herein is not intended to provide any guarantee, warranty, or prediction of success in obtaining a software patent.  Results can vary from client-to-client and project-to-project.

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