Intellectual property is the term applied to innovative and creative materials. It can be thought of in the same way as physical property in that it can be bought and sold. Intellectual property rights allow the owners of intellectual property to gain from the use of their work and they sit at the foundation of the software industry.
The law provides different methods for protecting the rights of ownership of intellectual property and each affords a different type of legal protection. There are essentially four types of intellectual property rights relevant to software: patents, software copyright, trade secrets and trademarks. The most common form of IP protection for software is copyright.
Patents protect ideas and copyright protects the expression of these ideas as computer code. Copyright protection arises automatically upon the creation of an original piece of software. There is no need to “apply” for it or register the copyrighted work in order for protection to exist. In the case of software, copyright law protects the source and object code, as well as any unique elements of a user interface.
Protecting your investments doesn’t just mean software licence compliance and protecting your applications from unauthorized use and distribution; it means intellectual property (IP) protection as well. Misused, copied or manipulated code not only leads to missed revenues but can lead to negative brand consequences. Stolen or grey market copies directly impact the bottom line of the original software developer due to missing purchase revenue, however, imitations will also probably not work as well either. This is not only damaging for the original software developer but can even hurt an entire industry vertical by damaging the forward progress of innovative solutions.
Every time a Software publisher delivers an application to an end-user, their intellectual property is at risk. Your software code is a valuable asset that you would not willingly hand over to your competitor, therefore it is important to incorporate software protection into your software monetization strategy. The source code of an application is vulnerable to copying, tampering and reverse engineering and copyright infringement can be very difficult to enforce, therefore you need to consider how best to protect your software.