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The Scramble for Software Patents

October 10th, 2011

It takes years to conceptualize and develop software program items, but not much effort to replicate the software if it has not been patented.

Have you come up with an thought, or an innovative process, or developed a neat small prototype around it? Are you totally excited about it and want to release it in the market and test it out? Hold on a bit, simply because you want to first protect your intellectual property.

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It takes years to conceptualize and develop software program merchandise. Even so, when the item attributes are properly defined, it does not take significant effort to replicate the software on a diverse platform or language if it has not been patented.

Can a copyright safeguard a new software item concept or process? A copyright on the software program only protects the precise replication of the software program code. A copyright does not protect an additional from replicating the core procedure, functional aspects, or notion of the software product. Also, a copyright gives no security if a comparable code is proved to have been independently developed. Patents, on the other hand, present an impregnable protection for software goods and processes.

The grant of a patent for a software program item or procedure grants to the owner the appropriate to exclude other people from generating, employing or selling software program that perform comparable functions. In simplest terms, a software program patent protects innovative software program products and processes.

The valuation of a software item business is increasingly dependent on the strength of its patent portfolio. Software program patents level the playing field between modest and significant sized software program item companies. A modest software business with cutting edge patents such as Analysis In Motion can command a substantial presence in their marketplace or domain.

A startup with a powerful patent portfolio can carve out a niche market and securely position itself. Take the case of the Bangalore-based startup, Textual Analytics. Focused in the area of contextual search in the Net, this startup developed a powerful patent portfolio. Madan Pandit, CEO of Textual Analytics says: “Our filed software patent applications give us the confidence to enter the net search markets that have big and properly established players”.

Alan Kay, the inventor of object-oriented programming, when stated, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Organizations, big or small, use patents as a means to safeguard their inventions. For instance, Microsoft holds about 5000 patents, and IBM about 40,000 patents. Approximately 145,000 software patents have already been granted by the US patent office and about 17,000 new patents are issued every year.

Trade secrets may possibly be employed to protect an concept in some industries. Coco Cola Inc., for example maintains its Coca-Cola item composition as a trade secret. However, it is challenging to maintain software program processes as trade secrets primarily due to the fact the inventive thought in a software item can be reverse engineered. A significant part of the intellectual property of a software item is exposed on the release of the new product. There is a direct and transparent relation between the functional aspect or features of software and the software’s internal processes, which requires less effort to reverse engineer the item.

The breadth of intellectual property that can be captured by a software patent is substantial Software patents can be obtained for inventions that disclose physical components, or for function that it performs that are new and non-obvious. Software program on its own is not patentable but the functions it performs are patentable. It is the machine, method, or manufacturing action utilizing the software program that is patentable. Some examples of patentable software program processes are editing technologies, control functions, compiling functions, user interactive software and operating method technologies. Organization techniques and mathematical algorithms, which use new manipulation of language-particular codes to obtain a predetermined result, are also patentable. The above mentioned software processes, organization strategies and mathematical algorithms covers virtually anything one can believe of in the high technology industry.

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