The Current Status of Copyright and Patent Protection for Computer Software

  • Brown J
  • Clapes A
  • Taylor E
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Copyright law continues to provide the favored protection for software, including programs of all kinds, microcode and the screen imagery of video games and computer interfaces. However, patent protection for nonobvious software inventions is increasingly available as additional or alternative protection in many industrial countries. In countries other than the US, patent protection for computer programs requires a statement of combination with implementing hardware, but the hardware itself must be novel in only a very few countries. The US imposes the most stringent disclosure requirements, requiring an inventor to describe the best mode for carrying out his invention, in effect calling for source code or, at a minimum, a detailed flow diagram. Copyright law, although protecting only `expression' and not any concept or idea in itself, has thus far been implemented in US court decisions so as to provide a reasonable degree of protection, providing an incentive for innovative work without preventing the creation of new works to perform required computer functions. Recent proposals for specially tailored laws to permit `reverse engineering' or copying of programs that are deemed industry standards are unnecessary and counterproductive

Author-supplied keywords

  • computer interfaces
  • computer software
  • copyright
  • de

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  • Jack E. Brown

  • Anthony L. Clapes

  • Edwin H. Taylor

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