Computer Software as an Intellectual Property:
Life in today’s world is driven by technology and software is on top of it. Without software, a computer cannot operate. Software is a part of many machines that we use. It has literally affected every walk of life be it education or entertainment, communication or construction. Due to wide range of its application software development has emerged as a different and independent field. This has also led to huge investment in the software industry, investment in terms of money and mind as well. Software development cost is more than half of the cost of the new system and a lot of research and development goes in to it. So it is obvious that intellectual property protection of software is imperative not just for the software industry, but for business world as well. Legal protection of software can affect the pace of technology.
A Software can be defined as a set of instruction intended to perform certain action. There is intellectual property issues associated with four elements of a software program:
- Program function – whether the algorithm is performed by the hardware or the software,
- External design – the conventions for communication between the program and the user or other programs,
- User interfaces – the interactions between the program and the user,
- Program code – the implementation of the function and external design of the program
A software can enjoy Intellectual Property Protection in three categories:
- Trade Secret
Copyright :As soon as a software is created is has copyright protection with it, so no special formality is required. As per the definition of the copy right, copyright protects only final expression or product not the idea behind it. Hence algorithm of a software cannot be protected under copyright.
Patents : Mathematical formulas cannot be patented but software can be patented if application of those mathematical formulas result in something novel. For example any mathematical formula cannot be patented but if that particular formula is used and a software is made to navigate the aircraft then that software can be patented.
Trade secret means any information related to formula, pattern, methods, compilation , device or process that has the potential of adding economic value and required a lot of efforts in crafting that information. When an algorithm can not qualify for for patent it is normally protected by Common Law and remedies.
Secrecy is normally managed by contractual tools – non-disclosure agreements etc.