Patenting Architectural Features of Software

E. Brown (Canada)


Software patents, Patent Law, Software Design, Object oriented software, Software Methodology


This paper looks at a trend towards patenting architectural features of software independently from any particular software application. Under such a patent, an architectural feature per se can be asserted as proprietary intellectual property, against any software application using the feature, regardless of its application domain. This trend is examined as a convergence of design methodology in software engineering and expansion of the scope of software patents through the courts. The question at hand is whether such patents will prove to be effective, impacting on software development practice. Practical concerns for the commercial software developer may include licensing arrangements or other methods of avoiding patented architecture. More support may be needed to “design around” such patents. Identifying infringing material will be difficult, as relevant features may not be observable in the finished software, nor at many stages of software development. It may become critical to clearly articulate which features are considered public domain, licensed, or novel while developing a piece of software.

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