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Intellectual Property: Computer Software

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Intellectual Property
Computer Software

“Computer law” involves the protection of computer software and hardware under relevant IP laws, including patent law and copyright law. It also includes a variety of transactional work, litigation and counseling regarding rights to use copyrighted materials and other technical components and inventions protected by the IP laws. Attorneys in a “technology transactions” practice typically negotiate and prepare software license agreements and hardware purchase agreements for companies in the IT sector. An example of transactional work for a software company is the licensing of a bundle of IP rights at various levels in a chain of distribution ("outbound" licensing). A client may also desire to acquire or license a third party's IP rights for incorporation into the software or other products the client company distributes, and in this case the transactional work will involve [...]

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“Computer law” involves the protection of computer software and hardware under relevant IP laws, including patent law and copyright law. It also includes a variety of transactional work, litigation and counseling regarding rights to use copyrighted materials and other technical components and inventions protected by the IP laws. Attorneys in a “technology transactions” practice typically negotiate and prepare software license agreements and hardware purchase agreements for companies in the IT sector. An example of transactional work for a software company is the licensing of a bundle of IP rights at various levels in a chain of distribution ("outbound" licensing). A client may also desire to acquire or license a third party's IP rights for incorporation into the software or other products the client company distributes, and in this case the transactional work will involve "inbound" licensing.

Computer software is an integral part of the information technology (IT) industry. Software components are included with hardware components in almost all of today’s computer and communication technologies. However, software developers and providers usually seek protection for their software code under a broader range of IP strategies than are available for hardware. For instance, although patent protection is available for new technical developments in software, companies often decide to protect their software programming code as a copyrightable “expression,” or through contracts, or even trade secret law.

As with other IP industries, knowing something about computer software can be just as important as understanding the client’s business objectives. Practitioners suggest that students with no scientific or technical background will benefit from some exposure to the vocabulary and recent developments in the industry. Although they need not become technically proficient in the discipline to become a good transactional attorney or litigator, it is very useful to develop some understanding of how scientists and engineers approach problems.

 
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