But… have you patented it?

Software developers do not normally have to worry about protecting their creations, either because they work for a company where other people are responsible for that or because they program with open code mentality, share their work on GitHub and don’t mind if other people use it. However, the time might come when we want to protect a program so that we can commercialise it later. In this post, I’ll briefly explain what the law says about the protection of software and the steps to be taken to avoid anyone taking advantage of our intangible property.

Laptop, book and mobile phone chained together.

Once again, I’ll begin with the story of one of my experiences at Showleap. For those of you who don’t know the story of this project, look at its blog, which tells its history.

As a group of students who were very excited about a project that in a short time attracted the attention of the mass media, what most worried us was how we could protect “that great invention that would make us all rich”. So we soon got in touch with a solicitor, because whenever we spoke to anyone about the project, we always heard: “But, have you patented it?” However, after a great deal of research in legal matters, it appears that in Spain, software cannot be patented. You can’t patent it, but you can protect it. Since code is not a tangible property, such as a lollipop or a mop (as you know, we Spanish always find the solution to everything is putting a  stick on it), it is classified as intellectual property, which is to say, a creation of the human mind, just like musical compositions, written texts and photographs. This link gives the list of most frequently asked questions about intellectual property.

Registering intellectual property is not very expensive, as it doesn’t come to more than 20€. In Valencia you can do it in the Citizen’s Information Office. Of course, it isn’t enough to take the code because, as the same code can be written thousands of ways, if someone changed a couple of lines, your intellectual property would be worthless. Therefore, you also need the flow diagrams, executable files and all other documents you can provide to prove the uniqueness of your creation. If it requires some kind of special device that the technical group in the intellectual property registry office are unlikely to have access to, such as sensors, smartwatches or other kinds of gadgets, you will be given an appointment with them so that you can demonstrate how your software works.

I hope you find this information is interesting and that you may be able to use it in the not too distant future.

Copyright symbol
Copyright symbol, showing that the work is original.
Registered trademark symbol
Registered trademark, meaning that a company’s identifying signs, such as its name or logo, have been registered.