So how do you protect IP in software? Some of the answers might appear to be – you can’t – or – whatever you do, it won’t work.
On the face of it though, you protect software through copyright – because software is specifically excluded from patent protection, which might otherwise be the expected route. In the US, software can be patented, which gives a 20 year monopoly protection, and potentially mighty revenues form licensing the patents; or protection of you don’t licence. But in the UK, and the EU of course, software as such cannot be protected. Software – as such – says the directive. What does that means, and is “as such” a loophole?
On 26th April we are presenting a seminar on intellectual property rights as part of the Leeds Digital Festival with our friends, the Patent Attorneys Appleyard Lees; and they’ll tell you that they are heavily involved in patenting software in Europe. How’s that? Well, you’ll need to come along, but the get-out is indeed in the word “as such”, because where software achieves a technical effect, the combination of the software and the outcome can be patentable.
This is highly political – protest marches have been held against the patentability of software; and on the other side, the proponents of the Free Software Foundation believe that there should be no proprietary rights in software – not even copyright. This is the “Copyleft” argument – that open source programs extend the open source characteristic to programs derived from them. We’ll explore that too, at the Leeds Digital Festival and beyond. Never straightforward, but so important to understand.
Written by Paul Berwin of Berwins Solicitors.