Can You Patent Software? Exploring Eligibility & Strategies

June 27, 2023
# min read

When it comes to the question, “Can you patent software?”, there is no straightforward answer. Software patents are a convoluted and contentious area of intellectual property jurisprudence that keeps on developing as technology progresses.

In this blog post, we will delve into the intricacies of software patent eligibility, including abstract ideas integrated into practical applications and technical improvements as key factors when considering “Can you patent software?”.

We will also discuss the USPTO guidelines for software patents, highlighting their two-part test for subject matter eligibility and how to navigate abstraction levels and technical improvements when filing an application. Additionally, we’ll explore strategies for successful software patent applications by providing tips on including sufficient detail in your application and utilizing provisional patents as initial steps.

Beyond answering “Can you patent software?”, this post will cover protecting your intellectual property through copyrights for code structure and trade secrets safeguarding proprietary algorithms. Finally, we’ll touch upon monetizing software patents through licensing and acquisition opportunities that can help leverage these assets for revenue generation.

Table of Contents

Can you Patent Software?

When it comes to “Can you patent software?”, determining the eligibility of software for patent protection can be challenging due to its complex nature. In the United States, an invention must integrate an abstract concept into a practical application with meaningful limits to be considered patentable. Examples include Google’s homepage patent and Airbnb’s lodging booking system patent.

Abstract Ideas Integrated into Practical Applications

So can you patent software? Sure you can, but to qualify for a software patent, your invention should not merely cover an abstract idea but instead, demonstrate how that idea is integrated into a specific technical solution or improvement. 

For instance, if your software innovation involves algorithms or data processing techniques, it should show how these methods provide tangible benefits in real-world scenarios.

can you patent software


Technical Improvements as Key Factors in Eligibility

A crucial aspect of determining whether your software invention is eligible for a patent lies in identifying any technical improvements it brings about. These enhancements could involve increased efficiency, reduced resource usage, or novel functionality that was previously unattainable using existing technologies. 

The European Patent Convention (EPC), which governs patents across Europe, also emphasizes the importance of technical character when assessing computer programs’ potential for obtaining legal protection through their respective national intellectual property offices.

Tips on Demonstrating Technical Improvements:

  • Showcase concrete examples where your software offers advantages over existing solutions.
  • Emphasize unique aspects of your implementation that distinguish it from the prior art.
  • Advise with a specialist in patent law to ensure your application effectively communicates the technical superiority of your invention.

Comprehending the USPTO regulations when answering “Can you patent software?” is a challenging, multifaceted issue; thus, it’s essential to be knowledgeable of the rules in order to make educated choices. The next heading will discuss how navigating abstraction levels and technical improvements can help you determine if your software qualifies for a patent under USPTO regulations.

Want to protect your software innovation? Focus on integrating abstract ideas into practical applications and demonstrating tangible technical improvements for patent eligibility. #SoftwarePatents #InnovationProtection Click to Tweet

USPTO Guidelines for Software Patents

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has established guidelines to help R&D managers, engineers, and innovation teams navigate the complex world of software patents. These guidelines focus on a two-part test that analyzes subject matter eligibility specifically related to claims made about patented technologies concerning abstraction levels involved during execution phases.

Two-part Test for Subject Matter Eligibility

  1. Determine if the claim is directed to an abstract idea: The first step in this process involves identifying whether the claimed invention falls under one of three categories: mental processes, mathematical relationships/formulas, or methods of organizing human activity. If the claimed invention does not fall into any of the three categories, it could potentially be eligible for patent protection.
  2. Evaluate if there is an inventive concept: If the claim involves an abstract idea, you must determine whether there are additional elements that amount to significantly more than just implementing the abstract idea on a general-purpose computer.

Navigating Abstraction Levels and Technical Improvements

To ensure your software inventions meet USPTO requirements for patent eligibility, it’s crucial to provide detailed descriptions demonstrating how they integrate abstract concepts into practical applications with meaningful limits. 

One way to enhance the description of your program in a patent application is by emphasizing the algorithms utilized and innovative approaches taken for manipulating data structures. These code components should be designed with the intention of solving specific problems encountered during routine operations that ultimately contribute towards achieving desired outcomes outlined in the initial patent application.

Comprehending the USPTO regulations for software patents is imperative to ensure your application satisfies all applicable prerequisites. With this knowledge, you can then move on to formulating strategies for successful patent applications.

R&D teams can patent software by meeting USPTO guidelines. Focus on inventive concepts and practical applications to protect your innovation. #SoftwarePatents #Innovation Click to Tweet

Strategies for Successful Software Patent Applications

To ensure successful software patent applications, companies should include sufficient detail demonstrating how an abstract idea is integrated into a practical application and narrow down claims specific to their implementation of the invention. Provisional patents are often filed as initial steps towards protecting intellectual property rights before submitting non-provisional versions within one year after original submissions were made publicly available.

Including Sufficient Detail in Your Application

An essential aspect of preparing a strong patent application is providing enough detail about your software innovation. This includes explaining the technical improvements it offers compared to existing solutions and illustrating its unique features with diagrams or flowcharts. A comprehensive explanation of the innovation is critical for convincing a patent examiner that it meets the requirements for eligibility.

Filing Provisional Patents as Initial Steps

  • Provisional Patent Applications: Filing a provisional patent application can be an effective way to secure an early filing date while giving you time to refine your invention or gather additional data needed for a full-fledged non-provisional application. A provisional application allows you to use “Patent Pending” status on marketing materials and provides up to 12 months before converting it into a non-provisional submission (source).
  • Non-Provisional Patent Applications: Once you have filed a provisional application, it is crucial to submit a non-provisional patent application within the 12-month window. This submission should include all necessary details and improvements made since the provisional filing. Failure to meet this deadline may result in losing your priority date and jeopardizing your chances of obtaining patent protection.

For successful software patent applications, it is essential to include sufficient detail in the application and consider filing provisional patents as initial steps. Additionally, beyond patents, copyrights can be used for protecting code structure and trade secrets safeguarding proprietary algorithms should also be taken into account.

Protect your software innovation with a successful patent application. Include detailed descriptions and consider filing provisional patents. #SoftwarePatents #InnovationProtection Click to Tweet

Protecting Your Intellectual Property Beyond Patents

Alongside obtaining software patents, other methods such as copyrights and trade secrets can also protect your valuable intellectual property rights. A design patent application could provide additional security while ensuring comprehensive coverage of all aspects related directly back to areas where these types may benefit from using those services themselves.

Copyrights for Protecting Code Structure

Copyright protection is an essential tool in safeguarding the unique elements of your software’s code structure, including its organization and expression. Unlike patents that cover specific functionality or algorithms, copyright protects the creative aspects of your work by preventing unauthorized copying or distribution.

To obtain copyright protection for your software invention, you should register it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This will grant you exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute copies, display publicly, perform publicly, and create derivative works based on your original creation.

Trade Secrets Safeguarding Proprietary Algorithms

In some cases, maintaining confidentiality through trade secret law might be a more suitable option than pursuing a patent for certain aspects of your software innovation. Trade secret protection covers any information that has economic value due to its secrecy and is subject to reasonable efforts to maintain its confidentiality. Examples include proprietary algorithms or business processes that give you a competitive advantage in the market.

  • Maintain Strict Access Controls: Limit access to sensitive information only to employees who need it for their job responsibilities.
  • Create Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs): Require employees, contractors, and business partners to sign NDAs before sharing any confidential information with them.
  • Implement Security Measures: Use physical and digital security measures such as locked doors, secure servers, and encryption to protect your trade secrets from unauthorized access or theft.

Recalling that patents are not the only means of safeguarding one’s intellectual property, copyrights, and confidential information can be applied for extra protection. Additionally, monetizing software patents through licensing and acquisition can help generate revenue from these investments in innovation.

Key Takeaway: 

Software can be protected through patents, copyrights, and trade secrets. Copyrights safeguard the code structure while trade secrets protect proprietary algorithms or business processes that provide a competitive advantage. It is important to maintain strict access controls, create non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and implement security measures to ensure comprehensive legal protection for software innovations.

Monetizing Software Patents Through Licensing and Acquisition

Software patents present opportunities to monetize inventions through acquisition or licensing deals with other companies interested in using your technology. By obtaining a software patent, you gain enforcement rights upon issuance which provides significant legal protection for your creations, opening up potential revenue streams from licensing agreements or outright sales of the patented technology.

Leveraging Patents for Revenue Generation

To capitalize on these prospects, devise a plan that involves spotting likely collaborators and striking advantageous agreements. This may involve researching USPTO databases to find relevant competitors or complementary technologies within your industry. Additionally, consider engaging an experienced patent attorney who can assist in drafting strong license agreements that protect both parties’ interests while maximizing revenue generation.

Exploring Acquisition and Licensing Opportunities

  • Inbound Licensing: In some cases, acquiring a license for existing software patents owned by others can help enhance your product offerings without having to reinvent the wheel. Carefully evaluate whether incorporating such licensed technology would provide added value to customers while maintaining profitability.
  • Cross-Licensing Agreements: Collaborating with other businesses by exchanging licenses can be mutually beneficial if each party’s intellectual property complements the other’s products or services. These arrangements often result in cost savings due to shared development efforts and reduced risk of infringement lawsuits.
  • Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A): Selling your company along with its valuable software patents could lead to lucrative exit strategies for founders and investors alike. In such scenarios, it is crucial to have a thorough understanding of your patent portfolio’s value and the potential synergies with the acquiring company.

By carefully evaluating potential partners and negotiating favorable terms, businesses can unlock new revenue streams while protecting their innovations from infringement.

Key Takeaway: 

Software patents can be monetized through licensing and acquisition deals with other companies interested in using the technology. To capitalize on these opportunities, it is important to develop a strategic plan that includes identifying potential partners and negotiating favorable terms, as well as engaging an experienced patent attorney who can assist in drafting strong license agreements. Exploring inbound licensing, cross-licensing agreements, and mergers & acquisitions (M&A) are all viable options for leveraging software patents for revenue generation.


When asked “Can you patent software?”, the answer is yes. While there are technical challenges in software development such as memory allocation concerns and processor capacity optimization, patenting software inventions is possible if they improve computers through innovation or produce technical effects or improvements. With proper security measures, Copyright and Trade Secrets are additional options that may also provide protection for your Software.

If you’re looking to protect your innovative software idea, contact Cypris today to learn more about how we can help you navigate the complex world of intellectual property rights.