Can You Copyright a Programming Language? All Your Questions Answered About IP and Tech!!

Mar 22, 2022

It’s not just artists and inventors who have to think about their intellectual property rights and protections. Or rather, there are many different types of artistry and invention in the world. While some might write a novel or invent a society-changing gadget, others might create a programming language that makes the world of coding and technology a little easier.

The question is, when it comes to the world of tech, how does intellectual property come into play? Does a programming language count as IP? What about a unique code? In today’s blog, we’ll answer all these questions and more.

What Can You Copyright As a Coder?

The good news is this: just like any other work of writing, your code is automatically copyrighted when you create it. That includes:

  • Source code
  • Object code
  • User interfaces

Though the copyright exists as soon as you launch the website, app, or otherwise publish your code, it’s still a good idea to memorialize it with a federal copyright registration. This will allow you to sue for copyright infringement and make your copyright more difficult to contest, as you’ll have official documentation to back it.

Programming language, however, cannot be copyrighted. Much like any other language, the code you create with a particular programming language might be copyrighted, but the language is merely the tool.

What About Software Patents?

The code for a particular software can be copyrighted, but what if your software offers a unique element that you want to protect beyond the code itself. You can trademark your brand, but a software patent will cover everything about your software not covered by the other two, provided it meets patent criteria:

  • Novel
  • Useful
  • Non-obvious
  • Meets the eligibility requirements under 35 USC 101 for patent eligibility

Patents can take some time from application to grant, and it might not always be necessary for your software. This is where it’s helpful to speak to an intellectual property attorney about the best steps to protect your tech IP.

What Are Trade Secrets in Coding?

A trade secret is the secret spice or formula of your business — or your software. It is a piece of information that is valuable to the success of your software because that information is kept secret. Customer lists and source codes can count as trade secrets. In some cases, if you’re creating a software that is custom to your business, that software itself might be the trade secret. Of course, most of these things can also be trademarked or copyrighted, but establishing them as trade secrets offers an extra layer of protection.

You can take other steps to protect trade secrets by implementing NDAs and making that information only accessible to the employees who need to use that source code, software, etc.

Do you want to protect your intellectual property in the tech world? Have more questions about how that applies to your programmed creations? Let Garcia-Zamor help! Contact us today to learn more or to schedule a consultation.