Software Patents and Piracy in China
Software patents raise a lot of issues during the development of IT industry. As a legal action in protecting the ownership and intellectual property, software patents are applied to a wide range of codes, from source code, processes to OS, etc. It "provide exclusive rights to the patent holder to use and profit from the product or process in question." 1 This paper will discuss the general background and effects of software patents. After presenting its current law and situation in China and US, the Microsoft vs. Ju Ren Co. case shows the difference between these two regions. It suggests that enforcing intellectual property still has a long way to go in China. From ethical point of view, an analysis will be made in terms of the effects of software piracy. While both sides of the arguments will be represented, this paper provides a couple suggestions and concludes software pirate to be not ethical.
Software patent is a legal action in giving adequate protections to the ownership of software. Unlike copyright protection, software patent protects the method and steps within a computer program and "provide exclusive rights to the patent holder to use and profit from the product or process in question."1 Even though software patent only became an issue in the recent couple of decades, the steady erosion of respect for patent definitely makes it a worldwide concern among software industry. In this paper we will discuss the different aspects of software patent and piracy by providing their background, definition and case analysis.
Software patents and piracy
There are over ten thousand software patents in the US, and each year several thousand more are issued. Companies now realize the importance of filing patents to avoid losing any dispute. Usually when a patent is to be filed, a patent attorney will help the applicant to prepare a provisional patent application. Then a patent search will be performed through patent database. After passing the evaluation of the commercial potential of this invention, it will be patented. This patent will then be legally protected by US law. If the patent process is filed in other countries, for example, China, the ownership should also be protected by the local Chinese government.
China has achieved great success in economic reform in the last ten years. The increasing foreign investment, especially in high-tech, has made China one of the biggest market for the sale and licensing of IPR products. During the period 1993 to 1997 alone, high-tech related foreign investments in China has reached a total of $185.8 billion.2 However, IPR protection in China is still way behind US. The most common problem is piracy. Software piracy refers to the illegal or unauthorized copying of software. In a sense it is ethical equivalent to pirates’ attacking ships in public water. "The International Intellectual Property Alliance estimates that millions...