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Have an app you'd like to copyright or patent? Here's what you need to know.

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Computer software programs and apps may be protected by a number of different forms of IP protection, but the two most significant types are patent and copyright. However, the scope of protection provided by the patent and copyright laws is significantly different. 

In simplified terms, copyright provides legal protection against someone making a substantially identical copy of the software, but will not provide protection against someone who merely copies the ideas or functionality of the software to create another software product.

In contrast, a patent can protect the ideas and functionality implemented in the software from being used in another software product, without requiring that allegedly infringing software be a substantial copy. Obtaining a patent on a software program is typically more difficult than obtaining a copyright on the program, as copyright rights typically come into being at the time of  creation of the software without taking further steps, although registration of the copyright with the Library of Congress is recommended.

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