From games and social media apps to productivity tools and enterprise systems, many different types of software have significant monetization potential. But, companies can only monetize their software if they can protect it. Without adequate protections in place, companies can lose the ownership and exclusivity that are essential for commercialization. So, what intellectual property (IP) protections are available for software in 2022? Our Alabama intellectual property lawyer shares some insight.
5 Options for Protecting Proprietary Software
1. Patent Protection
Patent protection for software is a complicated, and often touchy, subject. Generally speaking, however, U.S. patent law does afford protections to software. Protection is generally available for software systems and methods, but not the code itself. When filing a patent application makes sense, the protection afforded through registration can be invaluable not only in terms of protection and exclusivity but also in terms of commercialization potential.
2. Copyright Protection
Software developers can secure protection for their proprietary code through copyright registration. While copyrights arise automatically, registration with the U.S. Copyright Office affords several important benefits. Among them, it puts third parties on notice of the copyright’s existence, and it provides access to statutory damages in the event of an infringement.
3. Trade Secret Protection
In some cases, it will be more advantageous to protect software as a trade secret. In contrast to patent and copyright protection, trade secret protection is rooted in confidentiality. If software qualifies as a trade secret, then preserving the confidentiality of the code (as opposed to filing a public patent or copyright registration application) will be essential for maintaining ownership and exclusivity.
4. Internal Controls and Data Security
Companies can also protect their IP rights in their software by implementing appropriate internal controls and data security measures. Even with patent or copyright registration secured, unauthorized access to proprietary code can still wreak havoc on a company’s monetization efforts and day-to-day operations. Employee confidentiality agreements, access restrictions and robust cybersecurity protocols are three examples (among many others) of measures companies can utilize to mitigate against the risk of unlicensed access or disclosure.
5. License Agreement Terms
When licensing software to third parties, it is imperative that companies use custom-tailored license agreements that address both the unique aspects of the software itself and the application’s intended use. This applies across the board—from consumer end-user license agreements (EULAs) to managed software agreements with major companies.
What about Trademark Protection?
Trademark law protects brands and logos; and, as such, it isn’t applicable to software code. However, if your company intends to sell its software under an identifying name or design, then you should absolutely seek trademark protection before going public.
Schedule an Appointment with an Alabama Intellectual Property Lawyer at AdamsIP
If you have questions about the legal aspects of protecting and monetizing your company’s proprietary software, we encourage you to contact us for more information. Please call 251-289-9787 or send us a message online to schedule an appointment with an Alabama intellectual property lawyer at AdamsIP.