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The case for patent protection for computer program-related inventions

Computer Law & Security Review
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0267-3649(97)88854-1


Patent systems have been created to stimulate the evolution of existing and the creation of new industry by protecting the industrial application of innovations. The computer software industry needs that stimulation as much as any other industry. All systems of intellectual property protection are available to be used to protect computer programs recognizing their limitations. Copyright does not provide protection for the innovative functional features of a computer program beyond the specific expression of the program code of these features. Trade secrets are subject to contract and have no impact on third parties. The European Patent Office is granting patents, not for computer programs as such, but for computer software-related inventions which meet the requirements of novelty, inventive step, industrial application and make a contribution to the computer industry either in the technical problem to be solved by the invention or in the technical effect achieved by the invention. The vast majority of European patents are being granted to non-European applicants and as a consequence the European Software Industry is likely to find itself being dictated to, by for example Japanese and United States interests, rather than playing its part in the international expansion of the industry. To ignore the existence of patents for computer program-related inventions can only be to the detriment of the future of the European Computer Software Industry.

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