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Florida Atlantic University Awarded Patent on Software

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A patent has been awarded to Florida Atlantic University Professor Stuart Galup for a new software-based system for assisting local government departments in overseeing guardianship cases according to an article in the Boca Raton News.

According to the article, this was the first patent associated with Florida Atlantic University to originate with the College of Business. The fact that the article points this out as being significant shows that patents are still seen by many as being in the exclusive realm of engineering colleges not business schools. A number of patents for software-based innovations and business methods have been granted to Florida patent holders recently.

As I point out in my article entitled “Turning to Patent Law to Protect Your Business Methods“, most people automatically think of patents as covering a new mechanical product, a chemical composition, or a manufacturing process.

Patents are now routinely granted, however, for software as well as novel method of doing business. A landmark Supreme Court decision in 1998, State Street Bank & Trust Co. v. Signature Financial Group has made it clear that business methods and software are patentable. Regarding software, the “idea” behind a particular algorithm is much better protected as a patentable method than as a narrowly limited expression in copyright law.

In “Protecting Software Through Patent Law“, I also point out that the United States Patent Office has issued software patent guidelines that provide examiners with instructions as to when they must find software inventions to meet the statutory subject matter requirements.

Copyright protection may sometimes be sought in addition to patent protection. It should be appreciated that copyright protection, without more, is woefully inadequate for the protection of software. For one thing, a skilled programmer can easily figure out how a program works and code the software in a different language or use different subroutines in an effort to avoid copyright infringement. Remember that a copyright only provides protection for the particular expression of an idea, and not the underlying idea itself.

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