How Can Software Be Protected As Intellectual Property?

How Can Software Be Protected As Intellectual Property?

Software is one of the most valuable and innovative assets in today’s digital world.

It powers everything from smartphones to satellites, from e-commerce to entertainment, from education to health care.

Software developers invest a lot of time, money, and creativity into creating software products that solve problems, provide benefits, and satisfy customers.

But how can they protect their software from being copied, stolen, or misused by others? How can they ensure that they get the credit and the reward for their hard work and ingenuity?

In this article, we will explore the different ways that software can be protected as intellectual property (IP), and the advantages and challenges of each method.

We will also look at some examples of software IP disputes that have made headlines in recent years.

How Can Software Be Protected As Intellectual PropertyCourtesy:Plainveiw blog
How Can Software Be Protected As Intellectual Property
Courtesy:Plainveiw blog

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property (IP) is a term that refers to the creations of the human mind, such as inventions, artistic works, designs, names, or images.

IP is protected by law to give the creators exclusive rights to use, exploit, and benefit from their creations for a certain period of time.

IP also encourages innovation and creativity by rewarding the creators and allowing them to share their knowledge with others.

There are four main types of IP rights that are relevant to software: patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and trademarks.


A patent is a legal right that grants the inventor of a new and useful invention the exclusive right to make, use, sell, or license the invention for a limited period of time (usually 20 years).

A patent also discloses the invention to the public in exchange for the protection.

Patents can be used to protect the technical aspects of software, such as algorithms, methods, processes, or functions.

However, patents are not easy to obtain or enforce for software inventions. Some of the challenges include:

  • The patentability criteria vary from country to country. Some countries do not allow patents for software at all, while others have strict requirements for novelty, inventiveness, and industrial applicability.
  • The patent application process is complex, costly, and time-consuming. It involves drafting a detailed specification and claims, conducting a prior art search, filing with the patent office, responding to objections or rejections, and paying fees and maintenance costs.
  • The patent enforcement process is also complex, costly, and time-consuming. It involves proving infringement, validity, and damages in court or arbitration, which may require expert witnesses, technical evidence, and legal representation.
  • The patent scope may be too narrow or too broad. A narrow patent may not cover all the possible variations or implementations of the invention, while a broad patent may be challenged for being obvious or anticipated by prior art.


A copyright is a legal right that grants the author of an original work of authorship the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, or create derivative works of the work for a limited period of time (usually the life of the author plus 50 or 70 years).

A copyright also protects the expression of the work, but not the ideas, facts, or methods.

Copyrights software, such as the source code, the object code, the graphical user interface, the audiovisual elements, or the documentation.

However, copyrights are not without limitations or challenges. Some of them are:

  • The originality requirement may be difficult to meet for software that is based on common or standard techniques, libraries, or frameworks.
  • The fair use or fair dealing exceptions may allow others to use the software for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, research, or parody without permission or payment.
  • The reverse engineering or decompilation may allow others to access and analyze the software to understand its functionality, interoperability, or compatibility.
  • The software piracy or unauthorized copying, distribution, or modification of the software may cause economic losses and reputational damages to the software owners.


A trademark is a sign that distinguishes the goods or services of one business from those of others.

It can be a word, a name, a logo, a slogan, a color, a shape, a sound, or a combination of these elements.

A trademark is protected by law to prevent confusion and deception among consumers and to protect the reputation and goodwill of the business.

Trademarks can be used to protect the distinctive names, logos, or slogans of software products or services.

However,trademarks are also subject to some limitations and challenges. Some of them are:

  • The trademark registration process may be complex, costly, and time-consuming. It involves conducting a trademark search, filing an application, paying fees, and responding to objections or oppositions.
  • The trademark protection is limited to the specific goods or services, the specific geographic area, and the specific market that the trademark is registered for. It does not prevent others from using the same or similar sign for different goods or services, in different regions, or in different industries.
  • The trademark enforcement may require monitoring the market, sending cease and desist letters, filing complaints, or initiating lawsuits against infringers or diluters of the trademark.


innovative asset that can be protected as intellectual property in various ways.

Each method of protection has its own advantages and disadvantages, and may require different strategies and resources to obtain and enforce.

Software developers should be aware of the different options and choose the best one for their software products or services.

They should also respect the intellectual property rights of others and avoid infringing or misusing them.

By doing so, they can foster a culture of innovation and creativity in the software industry.

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