can software be patented

Can Software Be Patented?

A patent is an exclusive right admitted by the authorities to an inventor to produce or sell its invention. It’s a sort of protection to the product created to be unique. There are three types of patents: design patents, plant patents (plant breeder’s rights), and utility models. The last one is sometimes used to distinguish the primary meaning from those other types of patents, for example, inventions that include biological, chemical, or software patents.

I know you’re probably asking yourself what can really have or not a patent and I will explain: an idea can not be patented, but if this idea becomes a project and a product, then it can be patented. You don’t actually need a prototype or a working model, all you need is illustrations. When showing or describing an illustration’s project, it’s incredibly necessary for it to be specific and detailed. The last step is acting as fast as possible because other people can have the same product and be faster than you, winning the patent. I know, it’s not that easy but it’s something that is worth all the effort.

The major benefits of patents include the fact that they grant a limited monopoly on products, and this encourages inventors to come up with new ideas, playing an important role in improving all the aspects in the creative process. The goal is coming up with something good, new, and fresh.

There are a lot of procedures you can follow if you come up with a new project but when it comes to software, things are a little bit different. Let me explain:

What is a Software Patent?

A software patent is a patent on operating systems, such as libraries, computer programs, algorithms, or interfaces. These patent applications need to pass through some technical requirements and must be written very carefully.

The Patentability of Software

When patenting software, there are a lot of issues you must look into. We already know that ideas aren’t patented and a software, in the beginning, is an abstract idea. This is the main debated question. The general rule demands that if the operating system has the major goal to improve computer’s functionally, then it’s not considered an abstract idea and can be patented. Otherwise, if an application corresponds to a tool for executing or running some process, then it is not suitable for a patent process.

This denomination also differs from how the patent application is written. If you describe and claim your invention in general terms, then your software won’t be accepted. If, however, you describe your invention with significant technical detail, and with a focus on the challenges that your product overcomes, then your project can not be categorized as only a concept and you might end up getting the patent.

For example, algorithms and mathematical formulas are known as abstract ideas so, generally, according to the law, it’s a no-no for them. However, if the algorithm is accompanied by the whole project design with all the results, then, according to a recent court decision, the story may be different.

How Does That Work in the U.S.? What About in Europe?

Most countries determine some limits on the patenting software, for example, U.S. patent law excludes abstract ideas, as I already mentioned before. In Europe, computer programs are excluded from patentability. The European Patent Office policy can consider that a program for a computer is not patentable if it does not have the potential to cause some effect that can help the computer’s functionality and improvement.

Solutions for Software Pantent’s Issues

One of the major problems is that patents are very expensive, not only for software but for other projects as well. So, a priority is making them more expensive with a simpler, low-cost resolution system because it will benefit all patentees in order to stimulate the creative process and become more accessible for everyone’s new projects.

The lifetime of patents is also an issue among the inventor’s community. If the system were to be renewed, in my opinion, they should decrease the patent’s lifetime by changing it from 20 to 5 or 10 years because, usually, less time is needed to recover from development costs.

Patents are for Inventors, Consumers, and Citizens

The act of patenting benefits everyone because it promotes innovation and protection for these advanced project ideas, especially in cases of products with high-development costs and start-up investments. When it comes to software, it can be harder to understand what will be patented or not, and what application will increase the computer’s performance. Now, you know all the issues around patents of software and hopefully, I helped you understand each one of them. Knowledge is key and keeping yourself informed is fundamental! So, draft your ideas, write a detailed report on the overall project and the benefits it will bring and, if all goes well, you’ll be able to protect your project and sell it as your own to the whole world!

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