Patent for a computer program


The mind of a creative person is a powerful source, and his intellectual property can be of no small value. Establishing the right of tangible property is not a problem, it can be done, for example, by presenting a proof of purchase or a contract. In the case of intellectual property, it is difficult to conclusively determine and prove who the author of the work is. So how to get a patent for a computer program? Is it even possible?

In the case of an invention, legal protection is granted by means of a patent. To obtain it, you must follow the required procedure, which consists of:
1) patent application to the appropriate office (in the Republic of Poland or the European Union)

2) collecting and submitting to a given office the relevant documentation concerning the development of the patent together with its description

3) expression of the claim or patent claims

Patent protection is granted for 20 years.

What is a patent?

A patent is the right to the exclusive use of an invention for a specified period of time in a profit-making manner in the territory of a given state (or states), granted by a competent state or international body. Patent in the common sense of the word means invention, discovery, novelty, innovation. Inventions that are new, have an inventive step, and can be used industrially are patentable. The invention is considered new if it does not form part of the state of the art.

Patent features: technical character, novelty, industrial applicability, inventive step - the solution as a whole must relate to the sphere of technology.

The Patent Office in Poland and the prohibition of a patent for a computer program

A patent can be protected in a given territory, each country determines its own scope of protection (although it is largely uniform for the whole of Europe). A very important aspect of patent protection is the regulation of computer programs.

In Poland, the prohibition of software patenting is justified by the Act - Industrial Property Law, which is indicated in Art. 28:

For inventions within the meaning of Art. 24, the following shall not be considered in particular:

1) discoveries, scientific theories and mathematical methods;
2) products of a purely aesthetic nature;
3) plans, rules and methods relating to intellectual or economic activity and games;
4) products, the inability to use of which may be demonstrated in the light of generally accepted and recognized principles of science;
4) products or methods which:
  1. the usability cannot be demonstrated, or
  2. use will not bring the result expected by the applicant - in the light of generally accepted and recognized principles of science;
5) programs for digital machines;
6) submit information

A computer program is a program for digital machines.

Patent for a computer program

The problem is that not always brilliant ideas can claim full-fledged protection, which is guaranteed by product patenting. Many entrepreneurs who created a computer program can only count on copyright protection. This form prevents the use of the source code (as text), but does not protect the functionality of the program or the methods that were used to create a given computer program.

The matter is so sensitive that it has not been regulated due to too different positions on this issue.

For the patenting of computer programs

  1. increasing the competitiveness of the European IT industry in relation to companies from Japan and the United States

  2. patent protection for software will contribute to increasing innovation, positively influencing the economy.

Against the patenting of computer programs

  1. combining legal and copyright protection of computer programs with patent protection may act as a brake on the development of alternative IT solutions

  2. patents cause a decrease in spending on research and development in the field of computer science (American markets have proved this).

Currently, the protection of a computer program covers a certain external, sensually perceptible way of representing a work (which is a code) - its external form. It is a legal and proprietary form of protection, much weaker compared to patent protection.

A computer program should be protected in all its forms of expression, such as source code and object code, as it can be reproduced in different computer languages.

An alternative to a patent for a computer program

It is possible to grant patent protection for inventions in which the software is presented as an indispensable part responsible for the functioning of a material machine or the course of a process of a technical nature.


The Patent Office does not recognize the subject of the application as an invention, if it does not concern any material creation defined by technical features relating to its structure or a specific method of technical impact on matter.

In practice, this means that it is not possible to grant a patent for an algorithm used by a programmer creating a program. Only the application of the code can be protected by placing it in a specific application or device, thus giving it an individual character.

The problem is the universality of the code and its applicability in various fields. A patent for a computer program for which a unique algorithm was created will protect only its visual / functional part. The very way it has been programmed is left unprotected, and this creates the potential for abuse. The same applies to other content elements included in the program, e.g. rules of the programming language, interfaces or file formats. They are outside the scope of copyright protection, but their specific, individual application in a given program will be protected.