There is no universally accepted definition of a software patent, but essentially they are another mechanism for trying to protect company’s intellectual property rights. If a company finds a novel way of solving a computational problem, they are able to patent the method (in some countries) and prevent other companies from applying the same solution (or to enable them to sue other companies who do).
Whereas it is right that companies should be able to protect their work and the investments they have made in R&D, software patents are tantamount to someone trying to patent fire.
Currently the only country to have adopted software patents wholesale is the USA, all other countries seem to have adopted a little common sense.
So, if you are a computer programmer or software architect working in the UK or Europe, you need to be aware of and adhere to Copyright law, Trademark law and Patent law. If on the other hand you work in this profession and are unfortunate enough to live in the US – emigrate.
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