If you realize patents for entrepreneurs are an important part of helping the U.S. and world economy, then you also know software development is a strong factor in this. The tech industry continues to become the most competitive industry out there, and software is certainly on the list.
Software is basically ubiquitous, and the potential your idea is already on the drawing board somewhere in the world is more than good. It's all the more reason to take advantage of the newer "First to File" process in patenting so you don't have another software developer file a similar idea.
Perhaps you're still new to software patents, though, because you're used to dealing mostly with copyrights. One thing about protecting software is that copyrights and patents apply to cover every angle.
To prevent complete duplication of a software program you created, copyrights give some protection. However, copyrights only do so much. They won't prevent someone from creating software with the same general idea.
Here's more on why patents give you more software protection and the types of patents you need.
Big Software Companies That Patent Their Products
It's always smart to learn from the big behemoths like Apple and Google. They once filed patents on some of their technology to prevent anyone copying or taking on distinguishing characteristics.
For Apple, they've patented their "bounce-back" feature you experience through iOS. Google managed to patent their search algorithm called PageRank back when the big G had to compete with others on the search engine playground.
Those patents have obviously kept them as dominant leaders with their technology, even if they're just small parts of a whole.
Software developers need to protect any code as a small part of larger programs since copyrights won't prevent someone from stealing the same basic concept.
What patents should you focus on, though, when protecting your software? As a software developer, you need to hone in on two particular patents: Offensive and defensive.
What is an Offensive Patent for Software?
Whoever owns the software code you're developing has to file the patent in their individual or company name. One of their first choices for patenting is an offensive patent, which might sound like a sports clause. It's actually a design to give you leeway to sue if someone attempts to steal your software idea.
As some patent experts point out, though, many software developers try to avoid obtaining offensive patents simply because litigation can bring too many distractions. Unless you're a huge company, there isn't any reason to go after an offensive patent where the lawsuit fees could end up costing you more than what you'll win.
As a startup software development company, it's better to consider a defensive patent.
Why is a Defensive Patent Better for Software?
The point of having a defensive patent is to obtain complete protection on your software so you never have to sue. Likewise, you'll own the patent first so anyone with a similar idea can't burden you with a lengthy lawsuit.
To save yourself money and time, go for a defensive patent to help yourself focus on what's most important: Growing your company (and inventing more software).
It's worth keeping in mind, though, that any patent is expensive to acquire. Consider how much you'll have to pay out and whether it's really feasible right away.
Patents Make Your Software Look Attractive to Companies
If you can find the funds to protect your software with a patent, you're going to make yourself look more attractive to companies scoping out partnerships. This won't have any chance of happening unless you've patented your software early.
You could find financial success quickly if a major company realizes you and they won't have legal contests after moving your software out to the masses.