According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a new, non-obvious invention that uses a computer program is eligible for patent protection if it produces a “useful, concrete, and tangible effect.”
In other words, a software program is patentable if it may be used for an industrial or commercial purpose. Even patents for purely commercial procedures, like the “one-click ordering” patent from Amazon.com, are now issued.
People and companies should patent their software because it will be protected, and no one else will be able to use, sell, or import the patented software. An inventive feature of a new software program or a new website’s distinctive feature can be protected by a software patent from being utilized by third parties.
For instance, Apple has protected specific parts of IOS with patents, preventing competitors’ products from utilizing those functionalities. To stop Android rivals from stealing certain features of their products, Apple has employed some IOS patents.
Why Do I Need to Protect My Invention Legally?
A patent is a title document that gives the holder the authority to legally forbid others from producing, offering for sale, using, or employing their invention. A patent holder will have 20 years to use these exclusionary rights, with the potential for an extension in specific situations.
An inventor must file a patent application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). This federal organization functions under the Department of Commerce to secure a patent. An inventor must select one of three patent kinds when applying. These are listed by the USPTO as follows:
- A utility patent may be granted to people who discover or create any novel and useful procedure, product, machine, or material composition, as well as any innovative and beneficial improvement on any of the objects mentioned earlier.
- A design patent may be granted to those who create an innovative, novel, and ornamental design for a manufactured good. Design patents typically expire in 15 years rather than the customary 20 years, in contrast to the first two patents mentioned below.
The major reasons why so many inventors choose to get their innovations patented are because they offer protection against theft and allow patent holders to bring legal action against anyone who violated their rights. There are other ways to protect inventions than patents, the most frequently requested type of protection. Below, these will be covered in more detail.
Additionally, the U.S. Constitution and intellectual property laws both protect the rights of innovators by granting them the sole authority to use and duplicate their inventions and prohibiting anybody else from passing them off as their own without the inventor’s consent. But after a patent’s official expiration date, third parties may create the invention without the inventor’s permission and offer it for sale, sell it, use it, or import it.
You should speak with an intellectual property lawyer in your area for further information about how patents can potentially protect your idea or help submit a patent application.
Is There Any Protection Offered by the Patent and Trademark Office Before a Patent Is Awarded?
The USPTO provides two main ways of protection before a patent is formally issued since innovators must describe their innovation or discovery in exchange for obtaining a patent. An inventor may submit a provisional patent application (“PPA”) to the USPTO while waiting for approval.
A PPA will allow an inventor to assert that they had pending status before anybody else, even if it does not ensure that they will be granted a patent. Consequently, the term “patent pending,” which designates this condition, was coined. A PPA provides inventors with various benefits, including evidence that they submitted their patent application before any other parties.
The USPTO also permits inventors to submit a description of their invention via its disclosure document program, which serves as another kind of protection. The inventor will have conclusive evidence that they were the first to think of the idea or design by participating in the disclosure program and providing a description.
Again, neither of the choices mentioned earlier provides the same level of comprehensive protection for innovation as a patent. However, they do provide a sufficient amount of security that can shield the creator from later applicants who submit a patent application for the same invention or discovery.
Without a Patent, How Can I Protect My Invention?
An inventor may be able to protect their invention through different means in addition to submitting a PPA or a description of an invention. A nondisclosure agreement (NDA) is a legal contract that can be created by an inventor and signed by individuals who have access to the invention’s details.
A confidentiality agreement, commonly called an NDA, is a contract that commits the signatory parties to secrecy. The inventor will have the right to sue any individuals for any damages or losses they sustain due to the breach of confidentiality if any reveal information about the invention.
Applying trade secret laws may be another option for an inventor to avoid needing a patent, depending on the idea. Generally speaking, a trade secret is valuable information that offers one business an advantage over another. Formulas, patterns, tools, software, methodologies, compilations, and other tools are examples of this information.
The information must not be generally known, must be able to benefit the holder economically, and the holder must make a reasonable attempt to keep the information secret to qualify as a trade secret. While there are no legal requirements for developing or registering a trade secret, most firms employ an NDA or a non-compete agreement to prohibit former employees from releasing the secret information to a business’s competitors.
Why Should My Software Be Patented?
Regarding software, the range of protection offered by patent law is extensive. For a maximum of 20 years, a software patent holder may bar anyone from producing, utilizing, or selling the patented invention. A software developer with a valid patent may restrict the use of his innovative computer algorithm if it applies to a practical issue.
Patent law enables a software author to completely bar his competitors from using even minor variations (referred to as “equivalents”) of his innovative algorithm, in contrast to copyright law, which only permits the author to prevent copying of a specific expression of an idea (referred to as “literal infringement“). Software patents can therefore offer software creators substantially more protection than copyright legislation. More patents are being issued as more developers become aware of the possibilities of software patents.
What Restrictions Apply to Obtaining a Software Patent?
Software patents must still meet the necessary criteria for a patent, including being novel, inventive, and non-obvious.
A software patent can cost $5,000 to $10,000 or more.
When deciding whether to pursue patent protection for a software invention, one should weigh the program’s worth (i.e., the possible money from distribution) against the expense of the patent application procedure and the chances of receiving meaningful patent protection.
Should I Get Legal Advice Before Trying to Patent My Software?
A software patent application is a difficult and time-consuming process. If you seek a patent, a patent attorney can assist you in filing for one and offer advice on whether it is cost-effective.