When you create new software, it is important that you take the necessary steps to protect your software application from anyone using it or using any form of it without your express consent. Because there are several components involved with a software application (i.e. functionality, name, etc.), you need to utilize several means of protection to protect every aspect of your creation and prevent theft of any element of the software application.
In order to protect how your software application is used and how it works, you will need a utility patent. A utility patent will protect the functionality of the software application or, other words, its purpose and useful function. A utility patent will grant you the exclusive right to produce, use and sell your invention for 20 years from the date of the patent application.
A trademark protects the name of the software. It is important to protect the name of your software application because it identifies and distinguishes your product from other software applications on the market. You will have the exclusive right to use the name of your software throughout the United States. This ensures that your brand name will not be used by competitors trying to steal some of your business by utilizing your name on their products.
The trade dress protects the overall look and feel of the software. It will protect the physical appearance of your software application including its size, shape, color and design. Trade dress also protects how your software application is packaged, wrapped, labeled, presented, promoted or advertised. It can also include using distinctive graphics and marketing strategies
Copyright protects the software code itself, as well as any original and creative artwork used in the software design. Because the illegal copying of software is such a huge problem, registering a copyright for your software application can help you recover damages in the event that your software is copied without authorization.
Kelly G. Swartz is a patent attorney licensed to practice in front of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and in the state of Florida. She limits her practice to intellectual property law including patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secrets.