Software and Business Methods
Computer technology plays an increasingly important role in our society today. It penetrates more and more areas of our life, not only in business environments but also in daily surroundings. A computer cannot operate without instructions. These instructions, so-called computer programs or software, may be incorporated in the computer or apparatus, but are often created, reproduced and distributed on media such as CD-ROMs or transmitted on-line.
Once created, it is often possible to reproduce software easily at very low cost. Thus, without appropriate protection against unauthorized copying and use, producers of software may not be able to recoup their investments. The unique nature of software is that it performs various functions through expressions written in computer language. Although copyright protects "literal expressions" of software, it does not protect the "concept" behind the software, which often is a core part of its commercial value. Since such concepts behind the software often provide technical functions such as controlling machines or processing data, program developers started seeking protection of software through the patent system.
However, due to the special characteristics of software innovation, some people consider that patent protection of software would inhibit competition in this field. It is said that software innovation typically involves cumulative, sequential development and re-use of others' work, and that the need to preserve interoperability between programs, systems and network components does not fit with the mechanisms of the patent system because the range of options available to the second comer may be constrained.
In recent years, another issue arose, namely the question of the patentability of business methods. Traditionally, business methods have been either in the public domain or protected under trade secret law. Today, however, information technology offers possibilities of applying new business models, using information technology as a tool for processing and transmitting various data and for communication. The Internet has provided new prospects of doing business on-line. Due to high economic stakes put on those new business methods and the expansion of e-commerce in our society, the debate on the opportunity of patenting business methods has continued at both the national and international levels.
Links on these pages, including those to studies commissioned for WIPO, do not imply the agreement of WIPO, its Member States or the International Bureau with the views expressed.
|2008||OECD||OECD Information Technology Outlook 2008|
|2008||OECD||OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook 2008|
|June 2004||IIPI||IIPI Report: Intellectual Property in the Indian Software Industry - Past Role and Future Need [PDF]|
|January 2004||OECD||Patents and Innovation: Trends and Policy Challenges|
|October 2003||WIPO||Intellectual Property on the Internet: A Survey of Issues|
|July 2003||Conseil d'analyse économique, France||Propriété intellectuelle (Jean Tirole; Claude Henry, Michel Trommetter et Laurence Tubiana; Bernard)|
|July 2002||Advisory Council on Intellectual Property (ACIP)||Consideration of a position on the patenting of business systems|
|November 2001||Trilateral Offices||Report on Concurrent Search Program using PCT Applications for Business Method-related Inventions Carried Out Under Trilateral Project B3a|
|2001||European Commission||Your Software and How to Protect It [PDF]|
|2000||Trilateral Offices||Report on Comparative Study Carried Out under Trilateral Project 24.2|
|October 2000||Report to the European Commission||Study: The Economic Impact of Patentability of Computer Programs [PDF]|
The inclusion of a link to a site does not imply the agreement of WIPO, its Member States or the International Bureau with any of the views expressed on the site.
World Intellectual Property Organization
- Report on the International Patent System
- Exclusions from Patentable Subject Matter and Exceptions and Limitations to the Rights
- Open Forum on the Draft Substantive Patent Law Treaty, March 1 to 3, 2006
- Electronic Commerce
- Patenting Software
- Bibliographies of academic papers on the WIPO Worldwide Academy web site
Other Intergovernmental Organizations
- European Commission
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
- Conference on IPR, Innovation and Economic Performance, August 2003
- Business Software Alliance (BSA)
- Center for the New Europe
- Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure
- Free Software Foundation (FSF)
- Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE)
- International Intellectual Property Institute (IIPI)
- IPR Helpdesk
National/Regional Patent Offices
- IP Australia
- Austrian Patent Office
- Canadian Intellectual Property Office
- Manual of Patent Office Practice, Chapter 16
- Japan Patent Office
- Korean Intellectual Property Office
- The Patent Office (United Kingdom)
- United States Patent and Trademark Office