Basics on Software Patents

Software is included in the Intellectual Property category and it can be patented. The patent grants protection for developers of the software. The monopoly of the development, improvement and distribution lies with the holder of the patent. In fact, the patenting system is intended to encourage invention among software developers.  Property rights can be ensured and granted to the right individual or group of people. The jurisprudences related to software patents around the world emanate from the laws in the United States, which is the pioneer of software patents. Software is a complex collection of computer languages that are interactive or run automatically in the background. The first patent for software was for solution to improve access of file storage. The patent was filed in 1962 by British Petroleum Company and it is intended to solve simultaneous linear equations.

There have been raging controversies in other countries whether software developers should be given patent protection or not. Depending on the country or state, you should check the details of software patenting. In some cases, the software per se isn’t give protection. If your software needs a special hardware to work, you need to make sure that the hardware is included in the patent as well. A good example, is a special data recording software that works only with specific airplane black box. When the software and hardware are separated, they will be useless, because the software can’t be used on any other software solutions.

There are concerns that software patents will actually end up hampering and harming creativity and productivity among software developers. Some of the software development methods and logics may needs to be re-used to achieve something. When the patenting system is too restrictive, it would be possible for developers to modify, improve and re-write computer software. A good solution to this problem is by using open source platform. As an example, from the basis of Linux, developers can create various flavours, such as SUSE and Ubuntu. Software, especially operating systems are very complicated, so building it from scratch may take monumental effort. The complexity of the software could depend on the features and intended level of versatility. A fairly complex software could contain more than 5 million lines of code. Small pieces of features can be patented individually, so things can be tricky for developers. A solution is to make different format of files. As an example, PNG image format was developed to avoid infringing GIF patent, while Ogg Vorbis format was made to prevent legal issues associated with MP3. However, using new format could cause new issues, such as compatibilities and familiarity. Existing platforms may not be able to handle the new format and even if it’s supported, users may not be familiar with it.

Patent is needed due to the high costs of development and research. Software piracy is a common problem and copy protection is often inadequate to prevent unauthorized uses. Patent is more intended to prevent other developers for making something too identical with an existing software solution.

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