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Can You Patent Computer Software?

As the world of digital information expands and computer processes become more sophisticated, developing new software can transform the fortunes of your company or your own reputation. But once you have developed software, how do you protect it so that someone else doesn’t use it and claim it as their own? Can you patent software?

The Difficulties of Patenting Software

When you try to protect any invention with a patent you need to define your invention, which is a tricky process when the invention is not a physical object but relates to software or computer processes. Defining the invention is hard in many cases, particularly in the case of software, and attorneys who have little experience in patenting software may struggle. There have been recent cases in the Supreme Court that have looked at the tests involved in deciding whether an invention can be patented. The main test involved in deciding on patent eligibility is the machine or transformation test, where an invention can be deemed patent worthy if it satisfies this test. Computer software could theoretically pass this test if certain conditions are met. Since it is complicated to patent software it is always a wise idea to hire an experienced patent attorney with experience in software.

Formulating a Patent Application for Software

It shouldn’t be a problem if you put together an application for a patent for your software invention provided you can completely describe your invention. If you do this, your invention is patent-worthy. It is worth considering that computer code is not deemed patent worthy as it is a set of instructions to a computer, rather than the invention itself. The main component of the software is the system design, which the code helps bring about. This system design is what you are looking at when you are putting together a patent application for software. You can protect computer code with copyright as the material is written down, but a patent is seen as more valuable as it protects the entire system and not just the code. Since there are many ways in which code can be written to perform ultimately the same process, there is nothing to stop someone else writing different code to be able to develop the same software as you.

So What Can You Do?

You must first be clear about what overall function you want the computer process to carry out, and therefore how it will be defined. After this it is necessary to work through the different steps you can take to navigate through the system. You will need a description of the system processes. And the help of an experienced patent attorney to get your application on point.

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