Is Code Intellectual Property and How Can it be Protected?

In this article, we’ll discuss what code intellectual property is and how and why it should be protected.

Code intellectual property

photo credit: Markus Spiske / Unsplash

We have all seen stories and watched television shows where somebody has written an incredible computer program that will change the world and it’s been stolen. For many people, this is just the plot of a TV show, but for some people, it’s a very harsh reality.

So, is code considered to be an intellectual property, and can you protect it? Do you need copyright infringement lawyers? Let’s take a quick look at the basics of intellectual property and work out whether or not your code does qualify, and what you can do to protect it from theft and misuse.

What is Intellectual Property?

So, what is intellectual property? Well, intellectual property is generally understood to be anything which has been created from the “genius of human intellect”.

So, let’s take a look at an easy example. Doctor Who is an intellectual property. It was created by a group of individuals who work for the BBC, and the character is considered to be intellectual property of the BBC.

They own the rights to that character, and they also own the rights to the things which are associated with the character. So, they own the rights to the TARDIS, and they own the rights to the Daleks.

This means that if anybody tries to use Doctor Who without the permission of the BBC, they are stealing intellectual property and using it for their own purposes.


photo credit: Arnold Francisca / Unsplash

What Is Code Intellectual Property?

So, is code considered to be intellectual property? Well, yes, it is.

If you write a computer code that forms a certain function when used, that code is your intellectual property. In some cases, it’s also considered to be a trade secret, as in a specific piece of information that belongs specifically to a company or profession.

The thing about code is that, even when you write it, you don’t need a copyright or a license for unauthorised usage of it to be seen as illegal. The code is your intellectual property, and if you can prove that you’ve created it, you own it.

How to Protect Code and Why You Should

So, you can take steps to protect your code as intellectual property from the risk of theft, redistribution, copying, or simply unauthorised usage.

Some of the ways that you can do this include registering a copyright. This means that you have filed a claim to submit that the code is yours, you own the rights to it, and it is legally recognised as being your property. This means that if somebody tries to use it without your permission, they are in violation of copyright law.

Lines of code

photo credit: Pankaj Patel / Unsplash

You can also do things like keep a proper log of any development that has taken place on the code. This means that if you’ve had past versions of the code that you’ve worked on and saved, you can use those as evidence you own the code.

You definitely need to protect your code from theft. If you create a piece of code, and then you use that code for commercial purposes to make money, sell a service, or sell a product, any person who has access to the code could copy it, claim it as theirs, and then resell it to make money off your creation.

Obviously, this is not an ideal scenario, and the purpose of copyright law and intellectual property rights is to make sure that if it came down to it, you could legally evidence that the code was yours to begin with and that whoever is using it is doing so without your consent.

Protecting your Intellectual Property…

So, code that you have created is considered to be intellectual property, because it has come directly from your intellect as a person. Therefore, it is protected under certain laws and regulations, and you should try and put a copyright in place, as well as control the distribution rights of your code.

Please be aware that the information contained within this article is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as legitimate advice when pursuing issues relating to copyright infringement or intellectual property rights. Always consult with a trained professional for advice on copyright infringement or intellectual property theft.


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