IP Protection for Computer Software: Leveraging Copyright, Trade Secrets, Trademarks, Design and Utility Patents

Evaluating the Protection Options, Weighing the Benefits and Risks

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Recorded event now available

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Program Materials

This CLE webinar will provide guidance for IP counsel in determining which form of IP protection is the optimal mode for software. The panel will examine the pros and cons of each avenue for protection and how developers and their counsel can best utilize the IP protection available.


Utility patent protection was thought to be the most effective way to protect software before the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank substantially limited the patentability of software. While some computer-related inventions can be patented, it is challenging, and counsel to software developers are looking to other forms of IP protection to supplement or substitute for the limited utility patent rights that may or may not be available.

Trade secrets are often considered an appropriate alternative to utility patents. The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 has strengthened the ability to protect trade secrets from misappropriation by creating a federal cause of action. But software can be difficult to protect as a trade secret because the code can usually be readily reviewed.

Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle or discovery, among other categories. However, a Federal Circuit court opinion revived interest in using copyright law to protect computer software. Oracle America Inc. v. Google Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2014) held Google’s copying of the structure, sequence and organization (SSO) of part of its program from Oracle could be copyright infringement.

Developers and their counsel also turn to design patents and trademarks to provide protection for various aspects of software. Counsel must understand the pros and cons of each mode of protection to guide their clients in choosing among options that will best protect the inventions.

Listen as our authoritative panel examines the challenges for software developers and their counsel in protecting computer software. The panel will examine copyrights, trade secrets, trademarks, and design patents. The panel will also discuss the ability to protect software using patents after the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice Corp. The panel will discuss the challenges of each avenue for protection and how developers and their counsel can best utilize the IP protection available.



  1. Challenges in protecting computer software
  2. Leveraging IP protection available
    1. Patents post-Alice Corp.
    2. Copyrights
    3. Trade secrets
    4. Trademarks
    5. Design
  3. Best practices
    1. Choosing between different options for protection
    2. Implications of the choice


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What are the hurdles that must be overcome for software to obtain copyright protection? Patent protection?
  • What factors should counsel consider when choosing between the different forms of IP to protect software?
  • What are the pros and cons of each mode of IP protection?


Asbell, Matthew
Matthew D. Asbell

Ladas & Parry

Mr. Asbell assists clients in clearing, obtaining, enforcing, and defending trademark rights in the U.S. and throughout...  |  Read More

Aaron J. Capron
Aaron J. Capron

Finnegan Henderson Farabow Garrett & Dunner

Mr. Capron has a wide range of experience involving post-grant proceedings, patent litigation and patent portfolio...  |  Read More

David Eramian
David Eramian
IP Counsel

Dr. Eramian serves as the lead lawyer counseling on the development, acquisition, and...  |  Read More

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