Subject-matter patentability and effective protection of computer programs
Computer programs can now be protected by patents in the EPO, the US, and Japan. Patents can also be obtained for software implemented business methods in the US. This study highlights the problems of the patent system in protecting computer programs in general, and business methods in particular. One of the main problems is in relation to the economics of software innovation. There have been many disputes on the proper level of protection for software-related inventions to optimize innovation. Another problem relates to the criteria of software patentability. Patentability criteria are different in national patent offices around the world. This can lead to disputes between nations and cause complicated legal problems. Recognizing these issues, this study examines the fundamental question of whether or not protecting software by existing legal regimes is optimum and desirable in the light of an economic perspective. This discussion reveals a number of disadvantages of the existing legal regimes and leads us to investigate possible altematives to protect computer programs appropriately. Thus, this study examines the basic structures and features of the alternative V systems, which include a 'Market-Oriented Legal Regime, a 'Compensatory Liability Regime', 'Utility Models', 'Direct Protection of Innovation, and 'Self-Help'. Evaluation of the alternative systems through economic perspectives on the basis of the characteristics of modem software development vindicates that the Direct Protection of Innovation proposed by Kingston and Kronz is the most appropriate form of protection for computer programs. To evaluate this more exactly, the development of software is discussed. This study also investigates the main issues that should be considered in introducing the direct protection system to protect software at the international level.