If you have invested your resources into developing unique software, your biggest concern will be securing rights to your invention. Because you want to get value for your efforts.
Securing those rights through patenting your software and its algorithms is among the most effective ways of ensuring you get value for your input.
This guide delves into patents for algorithms from definitions to patentability and everything in between, so keep reading if you are a developer and planning to secure patent rights for your inventions.
What Are Patents
A patent is a protection granted by a government to inventors for a specified time to allow them to profit from the inventions.
In most jurisdictions, patent rights last 20 years from the filing date. Once granted, a patent gives the inventor exclusive rights to their invention. Plus, it gives legal authority to stop others from using it.
What Is An Algorithm?
As a software developer, you create algorithms daily, so you may not have a problem understanding an algorithm. But it is still worth defining for new people in the industry.
The most basic definition of an algorithm is a set of steps or rules applied by software to accomplish a specific task. Algorithms take data input and produce an expected output by following a specific sequence of steps.
Algorithms are applied in almost all pieces of software. For example, social media companies use algorithms to determine the type of content or ads to show to a specific user.
Patentability Of Algorithm
You probably have heard that algorithms software and computer programs are not patentable. This argument hinges on the fact that the creators of IP laws didn’t envision a time when software computer programs and algorithms would be a thing. As a result, the patentability of some aspects of technology was in limbo.
But most jurisdictions, including Canada, have since revised their laws to allow for patenting of algorithms, software, and computer programs. If you doubt whether it’s possible to patent your algorithms, then the answer is yes, you can. However, the algorithms must meet the eligibility criteria for patenting.
Patent Eligibility Criteria For Algorithms
IP laws in most jurisdictions, including Canada, consider algorithms and mathematical methods which are not eligible for patent registration.
However, when the patent is applied tangibly and practically, it may qualify for patent registration. Below is a set of requirements that an algorithm must meet for patenting.
Novelty and Inventive
The first test for patentability is the novelty of the invention. In other words, it must be a first in the world and not be disclosed anywhere before the filing date.
The inventive aspect of the innovation speaks to the non-obviousness of the invention, which means its steps and operation should not be obvious to an expert in the field.
Technical Effect Requirement
As mentioned earlier, an algorithm is a mathematical method that is not patentable unless applied to produce a technical effect beyond the mathematical or abstract idea it embodies.
A technical effect can be in the form of solving a technical problem, improving the efficiency of an existing process, or creating a new way of solving a problem.
Disclosure And Enablement Requirement
Patent registration involves giving and taking. The government offers protection to the invention for a specified amount. In return, the inventor provides the government with detailed disclosure about the invention, which the government makes public after the expiry of the protection period.
Detail the information enough so that another developer can recreate the algorithm by following the information provided. The disclosure information should also contain real-life applications of the algorithm and its advantages over existing algorithms, if any.
Registering Your Patents
If you are sure your algorithm idea meets the eligibility criteria, you can move on to registration
with the registering authority in your jurisdiction. To secure a patent in Canada, you must go through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office ( CIPO). This guide on securing a patent in Canada can help you navigate the process.
If you are applying for a patent in the US, you will apply for registration through the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). You will also have to pay the applicable fees.
You are bound to experience some challenges through the process; for example, the patent search process used to determine the novelty of your invention may be outside your purview, so it’s recommended that you work with an IP agency or lawyer.
Most jurisdictions, including Canada, have a 20-year protection period for patents, after which the information provided in the disclosure becomes public. Fortunately, 20 years is enough to recoup your investment and profit from your invention. Also, the fast-changing tech environment can mean that your algorithms may as well be obsolete in 20 years, so you may not even need protection for them.
The second most significant limitation of patent protections is their geographical limitation. Registering your patterns in your country means that you can only enforce that you are right within the borders of your country.
If you want to enjoy similar protections abroad, you must register your patents in the countries where you want protections or with WIPO, which offers protections in over 190 countries.