Experienced Intellectual Property Counsel For the Present & Future of Your Business SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION

How to File a Software Patent 

Law Office of Julie Scott LLC June 20, 2024

Word Software Patent below light bulbsWith today's fast-paced technology, innovation is the key driver of success for many startups and tech firms. As a software developer or a business owner in Missouri, you may create new software that can revolutionize your industry. But how do you protect your software from being copied or misused by your competitors? This is where software patents come into play. 

Filing for a software patent provides exclusive rights to your invention, allowing you to prevent others from making, using, or selling it without your permission. This helps protect your hard work and offers you a competitive edge in the market.  

At the Law Office of Julie Scott LLC, I can guide you through the best practices for filing a software patent and help you protect your intellectual property. Located in Kansas City, Missouri, I proudly serve clients throughout Columbia, Springfield, and Rolla. 

Understanding Software Patents 

A software patent is a form of intellectual property protection that grants the patent holder exclusive rights to a specific software invention. Unlike copyrights, which protect the expression of an idea, patents protect the functional aspects and results of the code. To be eligible for a software patent, your invention must meet certain criteria: 

  • Subject matter eligibility: The software must not be an abstract idea, a law of nature, or a natural phenomenon. 

  • Novelty: The software must be new and not previously disclosed to the public. 

  • Non-obvious: The software must not be an obvious improvement over an existing technology. 

  • Usefulness: The software must have a practical application and be operable. 

Understanding these criteria is crucial before filing a patent application as it sets the foundation for a successful patent filing. An experienced patent attorney can help you determine whether your software meets the eligibility requirements.  

Types of Software Patents 

When it comes to protecting software, several types of patents can be considered based on the nature of the invention and its application. Understanding the distinctions between these types is essential to make sure you apply for the right kind of protection for your software. The primary types of software patents include: 

  • Non-provisional utility patents: The most common patent for software inventions, they protect the functional aspects of an innovative software system or method, such as algorithms, data structures, and program functionalities that result in a tangible effect or improvement in technology. When granted, they protect your software for 20 years from the date the application was filed. 

  • Provisional patents: A provisional application allows you to secure an early filing date while giving you up to 12 months to develop your software further and prepare a complete, non-provisional patent application. This can be particularly useful for startups and developers who need time to refine their inventions or seek investment. 

  • Design patents: Design patents protect the ornamental and non-functional aspects of software, such as graphical user interfaces (GUIs). This type of patent focuses on the visual appearance, such as a unique and innovative design that enhances the user experience, rather than the software's functional aspects. 

Benefits of Filing for Software Patents 

Apart from providing protection for your unique software and prohibiting its use, sale, or duplication by another party, a software patent offers several benefits that can significantly impact your business. These include: 

  • Protection against infringement: A patent provides legal protection, preventing others from copying or using your invention without permission. 

  • Competitive advantage: Patented technology sets your business apart from competitors, enhancing your market position. 

  • Increased revenue opportunities: Patents can be monetized through licensing agreements, generating additional revenue streams. 

  • Increased market value: Holding patents can increase the value of your company, making it more attractive to investors and potential buyers. 

By securing a software patent, you are not only protecting your innovation but also opening up opportunities for business growth and financial gain. 

The Process of Filing a Software Patent: Steps and Best Practices

Filing a software patent involves several steps, each requiring careful consideration and attention to detail. Here are the key steps and best practices to follow: 

  1. Turn your idea into an invention: Start by developing your software idea into a fully functional invention. Make sure it meets the eligibility criteria for a patent. 

  1. Contact a patent attorney: Given the complexity of patent law, it's highly recommended to consult seasoned legal advice. As a patent attorney, I am experienced in intellectual property law and can guide you through the entire process, making sure your application is thorough and accurate. 

  1. Perform market research: Conduct market research to determine the potential commercial value of your invention. Understanding the market landscape can help you assess the viability of pursuing a patent. 

  1. Conduct a patentability search: This involves reviewing existing patents and publications to make sure your invention is unique. This search can prevent you from wasting time and resources on an invention that may already be patented. 

  1. Determine inventorship and ownership: Clearly define who the inventors are and who owns the rights to the invention. This is crucial, particularly if multiple parties are involved in the creation of the software. 

  1. File the patent application: File your patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The application should include the software specifications, claims, and drawings (if necessary). The specifications should describe the invention in detail, while the claims should define the scope of protection. Make sure all the required documents and fees are included. 

  1. Wait for approval (notice of allowance): After submission, the USPTO will examine your application. This process can take several months to years. If your application meets all the requirements, you will receive a Notice of Allowance. 

Once a software patent is granted, you can use it to protect your invention, license it to others, or take legal action against infringement. If your application is initially rejected, you have the option to respond to office actions or file appeals. An experienced intellectual property attorney can help you formulate a strong appeal and increase your chances of receiving a positive outcome. 

FAQ About Software Patents

Are software patents enforceable? 

Yes, software patents are enforceable under United States law, provided that they meet the necessary eligibility criteria and have been duly granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  

Enforcing a software patent requires the patent holder to take proactive steps to protect their intellectual property rights, including monitoring for infringement, serving cease and desist letters, and filing lawsuits against improper use or duplication.  

Can I file for a software patent internationally? 

Yes, you can file for an international software patent through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) or by filing directly with individual countries' patent offices. However, this can be a complicated and expensive process, and it's recommended to consult with an experienced patent attorney before filing for an international patent. 

How long does a software patent last? 

According to the USPTO, a software patent lasts for 20 years from the date of filing, after which it enters the public domain and becomes free to use by anyone. However, depending on your business objectives, you may choose to renew or extend your patent before it expires. 

Seek Experienced Legal Counsel 

In today's technology-driven world, software patents play a crucial role in protecting innovative ideas and providing a competitive advantage in the market. A software patent can protect your software invention and open opportunities for business growth, revenue, and competitive advantage. 

If you've developed a new software and are considering filing for a patent, reach out to me at the Law Office of Julie Scott LLC. I have extensive experience in helping clients protect their intellectual property. Contact me today to schedule a free consultation.