Copyright vs Patent

Software can be protected by a copyright or a patent. A copyright is a form of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship in the United States and due to treaties, worldwide. An advantage of a copyright is its long life. For an author, the copyright runs for the life of the author plus 70 years. If it’s a work-for-hire, such as an employee of a company, it runs for 95 to 120 years. Critically, a copyright covers the embodiment of the product, but not the concept of the product itself. For example, accounting software is well known. However, my specific organization, presentation, and running order of known counting routines form my specific embodiment of a known concept and is protectable under copyright law. However, the general idea of accounting software is not protected. In contrast, a patent provides 20 years of protection from the date of filing. Patents cover the actual concept, but not the actual embodiment. New formulations or new unique concepts of accounting are patentable subject matter. Patents are much more powerful than copyrights because anyone violating your new concepts would infringe. Of course, both forms of protection may be available. If you have more questions, we suggest consulting with an experienced intellectual property attorney.