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Source Code

Source Code

Source code is the most fundamental building block of code, a list of commands to be assembled into a computer program. As a 25-year software developer, patent attorney Mark Terry ( is well versed in all aspects of source code, throughout the entire software development lifecycle.

What many people do not know is that source code on its own, without being compiled, interpreted or executed, is protectable under the laws of the United States of America. Specifically, source code is protectable by copyright as a literary work. Formalizing those copyrights involves an application process at the U.S. Copyright Office wherein the applicant submits a copyright application, which is examined, and if approved, registers as a U.S. copyright registration. This registration can be used to enforce the copyrights in the source code, including filing a lawsuit in federal court for federal copyright infringement.

With the explosion of software development in the U.S. since the early 2000s, federal copyright infringement lawsuits are becoming increasingly frequent in the United States. One example of this type of lawsuit is the Waymo vs. Google lawsuit that was litigated in the Northern District of California in early 2020. ( This lawsuit involved alleged infringement by Google of source code owned by Waymo. This case involved the allegation that a former Waymo employee took source code to a rival company, Google. Luckily for Waymo, they owned and registered copyrights in said source code, which allowed them to file a lawsuit against Google, eventually leading to a settlement that included the payment of a large sum of money (about $245 million) to Waymo.

If you are involved in the development of source code that is highly valuable to you or your company, it is important to seek advice from an intellectual property attorney who has experience with source code, and who knows the difference between a pointer and a linked list. Contact patent attorney Mark Terry ( for a free consultation regarding your source code.

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