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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Copyright Registration: Is it required?

Anita Kalia
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Anita Kalia
The status of copyright registered software is much better than that of an unregistered one...What could be the consequences and risk if you developed software application and launched it in the market without any Intellectual Property protection. If the software is free or paid one, and another company claims to be the owner of such software, what will be the course of action? In such case you will be asked to produce the evidence to prove the originality and ownership or valid title of the work, in the absence of which it becomes difficult to safeguard the interests of your own work. However, if you have registered the work with the registrar of copyrights, the certificate of registration is a valid proof of ownership that can be produced as evidence. In another situation, you want to raise capital by taking loan for the business against the software developed by you, the bank may refuse to grant a loan without having any intellectual property protection on the software.

Why copyright, not patent?

Now the question arises as to why to go for copyright protection when we have a strong patent regime in India. Patents generally protect inventions which are new/novel, inventive and have an industrial application. Moreover, the subject matter should not fall under any of the categories defined under Section 3 [Inventions not patentable] and 4 [Inventions relating to atomic energy] of the Indian Patents Act 1970. Section 3(k) of Indian Patents Act, 1970 clearly states that “computer program per se is not patentable”. This, however, does not include those software programs that control the hardware in some or the other form such as embedded system software and more. However, pure software applications, such as a banking software, railways software system, software for general everyday use, web browsers, word processors, and spreadsheet, specialized software such as computer aided design software, accountancy software and others, come within the purview of non-patentable inventions under Indian Patent Law. For such software application, the only recourse for intellectual property protection is under copyright law, which does not protect the basic idea or concept behind the software program, but only the form and the manner in which it is expressed.

The basic difference between patents and copyright is that patents protect the Idea or the concept behind an invention whereas a copyright protects the expression of that Idea. There is another good reason to go for copyright rather than a patent is that generally the software patent applications should be limited to inventions having significant present and future commercial value. If the commercial life of software is only a few years, patent protection may not make much sense because it will take at least three to four years for the software patent to be granted and that too is not sure thing to happen due to strict patent laws in India. The period for patent registration is a long one in the light of technology boom where a latest technology becomes obsolete in few months.

Extent of copyright protection


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