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Strategies for Litigating Software Copyright Infringement Cases

By Steven R. Hansen of Hansen IP Law PLLC and Richard Turley of Colorado State University

Steve Hansen is the owner of Hansen IP Law PLLC, a law firm specializing in intellectual property matters. He can be reached at 248 504 4849 and . Dr. Turley is a Professor of Computer Information Systems at Colorado State University.  He can be reached at


The courts have recognized for some time that copyright protection is available for software. However, copyright is intended to protect works of expression, not methods, functions, or algorithms. Except in those cases where there is verbatim copying of all or a large portion of source code, it can be difficult to determine whether similarities between programs constitute copyright infringement.

The courts have developed analytical techniques for isolating the expressive, and therefore copyright-protectable, aspects of software. However, modern computer program source code can total hundreds of thousands of lines of code, or even more. The judicial techniques for identifying what is protectable can be difficult to implement in practice. In general, they seek to identify what is not protecta...

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