Home > Reading Room > Computer programs: patents or copyright?

Computer programs: patents or copyright?

Written by Corinne Day on 03 January 2010

« Return to Reading Room

Computer programs are regarded as literary works and are protected by copyright (section 3(1), Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988). If a business method is set out in a document, that document will also be regarded as a literary work and will be protected by copyright.

However, computer programs (or business methods) which are capable of being protected by patents, should be, as arguably, patents provide far greater protection than copyright protection. The position in the UK is that computer programs are not patentable "as such", but the application of a computer program may be patentable if it possesses technical character.

This article now looks at the criteria for both patents and copyright:

Patents


- May be granted after an application is submitted to the UK Intellectual Property Office and examined. Stringent criteria.

- May protect computer programs if they possess technical character. However, it is debated whether claims for computer programs are enforceable. Business methods 'as such' are excluded.

- For patent infringement there is no need to prove copying; it is sufficient to prove that the infringing act falls within the scope of the patent claims. Therefore patents protect against independent creation.

- Protects the concept claimed rather than the expression of that concept described in the specification.

Copyright

- Copyright subsists automatically, i.e. there is no application or examination process.

- Protects computer programs as "literary works". The description of a business method in a document protected as a literary or artistic work.

- Protects computer programs as "literary works". The description of a business method in a document protected as a literary or artistic work.

- Protects skill, labour and effort behind the "expression" of the work (including the algorithm behind an original computer program). Does not effectively protect the "idea" behind that expression.

It is clear that patents offer greater protection over copyright and those computer programs which possess technical character should be protected as such rather than relying merely on copyright protection.

If you'd like to know more about this article please send an email to Unknown quoting the article title and any questions you might have, alternatively call the office number on 02380 235 979 or send an enquiry through our contact form.

Want to speak
to someone?

Complete the form below and we’ll call you back free of charge.

Visual Captcha