Copyright of an Algorithm or Software

Facts About the Patent and Copyright of an Algorithm or Software

Online Legal India LogoBy Online Legal India Published On 14 Oct 2022 Category Copyright

India has a large information technology industry and one of the most talented groups of IT experts in the world. Therefore, there is much interest in safeguarding the intellectual property developed in India, where thousands of billions are annually spent on research and development of software products. In this blog, we will discuss the facts about whether one can copyright algorithms and software or not.     

What Is an Algorithm? 

An algorithm is a step-by-step process that specifies a series of directives that must be followed in a particular sequence in order to yield the desired outcome. An algorithm can be implemented in more than one programming language because algorithms are typically designed independently of the underlying languages. A few features of an algorithm include clarity, excellence, efficacy, and language independence. An algorithm’s performance and scalability are what really determine how important it is.   

Copyright of an Algorithm

Algorithms carry out tasks like calculations, data processing, and other difficult activities. The functional elements of a computer programme, such as its algorithms, logic, formatting, functionalities, and system design, are not protected by copyright law in India or elsewhere. As a result, under copyright law, an algorithm cannot be registered.  

This is because of the fact that it is impossible to claim that a programmer has violated your algorithm’s copyright if they created a separate programme but followed the same instructions as those in your algorithm. But if the programmer turns the algorithm into source code, he or she can then apply for a copyright algorithm. Additionally, this is due to the fact that source code is regarded as a “literary work” and is therefore protected by copyright laws both nationally and globally.  

How to Get Software Copyright in India?

In India, the software is more typically protected by copyright registration. According to Section 2(O) of the Copyright Act of 1957, computer software and programmes may be registered as literary works. As a result, copyright protection is more appropriate for software protection. The "Source Code" must be submitted to the Copyright Office along with the copyright registration application when registering a piece of software.

One can get software copyright in India by simply recording the programme on a tangible medium. The work is qualified for copyright protection as soon as it is embodied in media like ROM, diskette, magnetic tape, etc.  

The construction and design of a software programme, as well as its images, sounds, and appearance, are protected by copyright laws in India. Even if the source code offers details on how to create and understand the programme, the object code is typically the part that is covered by copyright.  

Computer software or programme can be registered under the Copyright Law depending on either the source code or object code since the Copyright Office in India regards both as equivalents for the purpose of software registration.  

To copyright algorithms or software, you must file an application with the Copyright Office that consists of a complete application, application fees, and a non-refundable deposit. The application form includes copies of the work that is applicable for registration. 

The copyright registration comes to force from the date the Copyright Office receives all the paperwork. The amount of information the Office receives and the method of application determine how long it takes to process applications.   

The following rights that the developer of a computer programme receives under Copyright laws in India are: 

  • Reproduce the work in any material or digital form
  • Make copies of their work and distribute them to others. 
  • Make any changes to the work
  • Translate the work
  • To sell the work to another person 

How to Obtain a Patent for Computer Sofware?

The majority of tech entrepreneurs who have developed software or app are concerned about protecting their intellectual property. The most frequent question among tech entrepreneurs is how to obtain a patent for software. The answer is that software can be patented; however, this is not always the case. Software patent protection is permitted and encouraged by patent laws in countries like the USA, Singapore, and Australia. However, the patenting of software ideas is not promoted in India or many European nations.  

According to Section 3(K) of the Indian Patents Act, 1970, a mathematical or business process, a computer programme, or algorithms are among the things that are not patentable. As a result, Patent Office rejects the application for a software patent using Section 3(K) of the India Patent Act, 1970. 

Section 3(K) of the Indian Patents Act does not apply to all computer programmes or software innovations, according to the Manual of Patent Office Practice and Procedure. Consequently, some types of software are patentable in India. For making a successful application for a software patent, the focus should not be on getting a patent for the programmes but to obtain a patent for the product in which the software plays an essential part.  


1. Why cannot an algorithm be copyrighted?

Ans. Algorithms are the operational elements of computer programmes. An algorithm cannot be copyrighted in India because the Copyright Act of 1957 does not protect the operational elements of computer programmes.  


2. How can one apply for software copyright?

Ans. Copyright protection of software is very complicated and, therefore, requires specialised knowledge. Contact our professionals for step-by-step instructions on the procedure for getting software copyright. 


3. How can you protect your algorithm?

Ans. Since algorithms are not covered by the Copyright Act, they can be protected through watermarking methods.


4. What is copyright?

Ans. Like patents and trademarks, copyrights are forms of intellectual property. Copyright protects the creators' ownership rights to their works. It is the sole legal right granted to the creator of creative work to print, use, publish, perform, or record.


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Anjali Malhotra


Anjali Malhotra


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