What’s the differences between software patents and software copyrights?

Patents and copyrights of software both belong to Intellectual Property Rights, but with different legal grounds. The patents of software are protected by the Patent Law, while the copyrights of software are protected by Copyright Law and Regulations for the Protection of Computer Software.

All kinds of software are protected by the Copyright Law. The patent applicant can file documents in compliance with requirements and apply for copyright registration. The Copyright Protection Center of China is regarded as the software registry according to National Copyright Administration and South China Copyright is its agency. Besides, formal review and substantial review are required when applying for a patent that should be original, creative and practical, etc. Thus, the patent application can seek for agencies’ assistance.

The software copyright registration is valid for a long period. However, the patent application and examination may take two to three years, and certain maintenance fee should be paid every year after acquiring the patent.

Software copyright protection adopts the form of code, which means the content will not be copied. However, the software prevents thoughts and methods from being copied.

Article 8 of Regulations for the Protection of Computer Software stipulates that the owner of software copyright enjoys the following rights:

1. The right of publication, that is, the right to decide whether or not to make their software available to the public;

2. The right of authorship, that is, the right to indicate the creators’ identity and to sign their names on the software;

3. The right of alteration, that is, the right to add or delete the elements of their software or to alter instructions or expression sequences;

4. The right of reproduction, that is, the right to make one or more copies of their software;

5. The right of distribution, that is, the right to supply the origins or copies of their software to the public in the form of sale or gift;

6. The right of rental, that is, the right to license other persons to use their software temporarily, except where their software is not the key subject matter of the rental;

7. The right of dissemination through information network, that is, to supply their software to the public in the form of wire or wireless, in order to make the members of the public to obtain the software on the time or in the place selected;

8. The right of translation, that is, the right to convert the original software from a natural language into another;

9. Other rights that shall be enjoyed by software copyright owners.

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