What is a Software Patent?

Before answering that question, you have to ask a simpler one: What is a Patent? A patent is a device that allows an inventor exclusive rights to commercially exploit their inventions for a limited period of time.Before patents came about, the only way to ensure that an invention was not stolen was to keep it secret. Patents were "invented" to allow inventors to release their inventions into the world without fear of plagiarism or theft.

The key word there is "invention". Patents were designed to protect physical mechanisms. A computer program is not a mechanism, it is an idea, an expression of thought. Other expressions of thought include music, movies and literature. These are already protected by copyright laws, and rightly so.
What's the different between copyright and a patent? Simply put, you can infringe a patent without being aware of its existence, while copyright is explicit.
So the question is a trick one – there is no such thing as a software patent.

The only exception that comes to mind is a mechanism to perform a task – such as encryption. In which case it is the encryption mechanism that is patentable, not the software implementation.

I am a software developer by trade; have been for many years. While large Corporations with trained attack Lawyers might like the idea, those who make a living in the industry generally do not – and anything that makes the lawyers happy at the expense of everyone else is a bad thing.

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