Legal Protections Related to Copyright, Trade Secrecy, and Patents

Assignment Instructions

The following are established ways of protecting intellectual property rights in software:
1. Copyright
2. Patent
3. Trademark
Describe the purpose of each of these approaches and explain how each of them can be used to protect property rights in software. Please include any experiences you have had with these approaches. Your paper should be about 1,250–1,500 words.


Sample Answer

  1. Discuss the legal protections related to copyright, trade secrecy, and patents. Include an example for each where legal protection has been enforced.


The U.S. Copyright Act. protects original owners of works from authorship by others.  When an individual copies and/or distributes copied work is said to be in infringement of the rights. The copied work has to be substantially similar to the original work for it to qualify as infringement. A copyright owner can sue the individual believed to be in infringement and request injunction, issuing of a court order preventing the accused from continued infringement; damages, compensation for any losses incurred; or both (Patterson, 1991). An example is Lowry’s Reports, Inc. v. Legg Mason Inc., where the accused would buy only copy of the newsletters distributed by the accuser and makes several copies that were distributed throughout the organization. The accused was found to be in infringement of copyright and the accuser was awarded damages (Nyman, 2004).

Trade secrecy

Trade secrets, unlike patents, do not require registration for them to be protected by law. Subsequently, a trade secret does not have an expiration date. Nevertheless, for information to be considered a trade secret, it must be confidential, have commercial value, and there must be procedures in place to ensure that the information remains a secret (Patterson, 1991).


Patent rights means that the patent holder can prohibit others from using, making, importing, and commercializing the patented item. Anyone who violates this right is said to have infringed. Patent infringement is a civil crime that is punishable by law. A patent holder can sue individuals who infringe the patent and ask for injunction, damages, or both (Quinn, 2013). For example, eBay uses the “Buy it Now” action, which is MercExchange patented practice on its online store. In 2003, MercExchange sued eBay and prevailed (Buchanan, 2006).

No matter the type of asset or information the company is looking to protect. There is always a way to do so. It is however essential that careful evaluation is performed before hand to ensure that the choice of protection suits the organization’s requirements and that all requirements and rules of protection are observed at all times.

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