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Unsure how well my software can be protected by copyright

 
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onar
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2008 7:57 pm    Post subject: Unsure how well my software can be protected by copyright Reply with quote

Very glad to have found this forum!

I have been reading a great deal about UK copyright law without finding a satisfying answer to my question, hopefully here I will be able to find out, or at least find where to ask :)

I am currently developing a software application, which has a very innovative user interface for using a touch-screen in the context of performing music. It has no existing competition, as it introduces completely new concepts, and will likely be very interesting for the niche market that it is intended for.

However, everything that is innovative about it, is obvious when it is used. There is no hidden functionality in the "black box" that is the software code; everything innovative about it can be fully understood simply through using it. So anyone can easily replicate the same idea, and just write his/her own code to imitate it.

I know that if I were in the US I could simply file for a patent of the innovative user interface ideas in the application. In the UK and EU however I know software patents do not exist, and the program is only protected under copyright law.

My question is thus the following:
To what extent can copyright law deter imitators from replicating the software, and marketing their own implementation? Can they get away with completely imitating the functionality and layout of the user interface, and only change the colours and shapes of the on-screen controls, while retaining exactly the same functionality as my application?

I do not worry that a smaller company will imitate my application too much. In that case the competition will at least be even. I also understand very well the reasons why it is a bad idea to have software patents in the first place, and why we therefore do not have these in Europe. I am however wary that a larger company, say Yamaha, will like the idea of my program, create an imitation, and completely wipe me out from the market because of the much greater resources they have available.

Apologies for the somewhat long-winding post, I hope I have at least explained my question clearly enough for you to be able to answer, or point me in the right direction.

Thank you!
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CopyrightAid
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 26, 2008 6:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is nothing you can really do to stop someone creating a competing product along similar ideas - this is just 'fair competition' (like Pepsi & Coca-Cola, MacDonalds and Burger King, Nero and K3B, Norton AV and McAffie [need I say more]). As long as they do not directly copy of adapt your work this is perfectly legitimate.

Of course if you discover that your code/images/etc. have been used in a competing product, this is an infringement and you could certainly take action.

If you feel there is something particularly innovative - (i.e. it really IS an invention) about aspects of your product, you could still be worth talking to the Patent Office, otherwise the most you could do would be register with the UKCS - so you at least have independent proof of your work.
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Nick
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 26, 2008 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, there are some 'copyright patents' in the EU; if the idea really is new, then it might well be worth trying to patent it. A really shocking amount of stuff does get through.
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onar
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 26, 2008 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you both for the very quick reply!

It seems it is worth trying to come up with a formulation that incorporates a description showing the collaboration between the software and hardware, showing that integrating both produces the whole picture.

Do you know where I could turn for some further advice on the process of applying for a patent, and the legal details, without paying much/anything? I'm still a postgraduate student with little money to spare... :/

I know about the British Library BIPC Centre, where I have had an initial meeting for advice, but perhaps I've missed out on a few useful resources!

Kind Regards
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