‘Tricky territory’: computer implemented invention patenting

The information technology industry invests large sums each year in the innovation and development of new tools for mobile handsets and other computer systems.

Although copyright may protect the underlying software in these systems, this form of protection is limited. For example, copyright law cannot prevent the independent development of rival products, it can be hard to prove and it is generally inadequate to stop reverse engineering. Furthermore, while the law of confidentiality can provide a remedy for those who believe that features of their systems have been covertly taken, such claims are again by no means straightforward — as with copyright, it is necessary to prove derivation from the claimant’s work.

But do patents offer an alternative? Novel and inventive devices and systems are more usually the subjects of patent protection. Patents are registered rights, protecting everything expressly recorded in their claims. Therefore, everybody knows, at least in theory, what is protected. As well as protecting against the direct copying of the invention, patents cannot be avoided by reverse engineering and they protect against the production of the same invention completely independently…

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