Finding The Best Small Business Scheduling Software

If you operate a business where you schedule appointments, class attendance, consultations, seminars, workshops, or any other type of event from which you earn revenue, it is critical that you use easy-to-use, yet powerful and interactive small business scheduling software.

I also encourage, if it’s possible with your business, to look for scheduling software that enables your customers to schedule themselves.

This not only makes your life easier, but is an outstanding website conversion tool. What I mean by this is new customers to your website can instantly book themselves for your service. No phone calls or any other obstacles that might lose the sale.

Ask Yourself:

When you book a customer, how much time does it take? Yeah, scheduling customers and clients takes time – yours and/or your staff’s time. How about the time you spend playing phone tag just to book an appointment?

That’s why if you can set up software where your customers can book their own appointments, you’ll free up a great deal of your time. You’ll also be offering a very worthwhile customer service (and impress them). Even if only 1/3 of your bookings do it themselves, you’ll be way ahead – and probably book more clients than otherwise.

The fact is in today’s fast-paced world, customers want immediate gratification. If your phone line is busy or you have to put customers on hold, you could lose that booking. Why not eliminate those losses and poor customer service with implementing online scheduling?

How Does Online Scheduling Work?

It’s simple, and you don’t have to worry about giving up control of your schedule with the right business scheduling software.

There are different uses of scheduling software – it depends on your business

1. Simple Schedule Viewable Online

Some businesses, such as yoga studios, dance studios, martial arts schools, and health clubs may simply wish to display class schedules on their website(s).

The key is getting scheduling software that makes it incredibly easy for you to change the schedule in one central location – which changes then appear on your website(s). Let’s face it, class times, instructors, etc. change regularly.

Instead of displaying your schedule in a fixed table on different pages in your website(s), which is inconvenient to change, use a central schedule dashboard where you can easily make changes.

Have you ever forgotten to change the schedule on your website? When you maintain separate schedules, it’s very easy to forget to update your schedule on your website(s). I don’t have to tell you how customers feel about being misinformed and relying on an out-dated schedule.

Solve this problem by using scheduling software you manage in one easy-to-access location – which updates all your schedules wherever posted.

Moreover, look for scheduling software that let’s you present pop-up descriptions of your classes and perhaps brief bios of the instructor teaching particular classes. The more information you place where it’s easy to find for your customers, the better service you’re providing.

2. Self-Booking Capability

Other businesses require customers to schedule appointments or reserve rooms/facilities. Examples of these types of businesses include hair salons, spas, tattoo parlours, massage therapists, physical therapists, etc. Take yourself as much as possible out of the booking process by getting scheduling software that enables your customers to book their own appointments.

The process is simple with the right software. Your customers register and you provide them log-in information to your online scheduling system. Once logged in, your customers see only availability and then book in available time-slots. Moreover, you then add a contact to your database.

Online booking puts the scheduling power into your customers’ hands. If they need to change an appointment, they can easily do so without taking up your time.

What Other Features to Look for With Business Scheduling Software?

1. Look Only For Cloud Computing Scheduling Software

Without a doubt, the most important feature to look for with business scheduling software is that it’s cloud-based. This means the software you use is hosted with the service provider.

A classic example of cloud-based software is Google Docs. You simply log in to your Google account and use their fleet of document-producing software (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.).

I’ve used desk-top scheduling software and like most desk-top software, it costs much more in the long run, and is very difficult to add new users (i.e. adding computers to the network).

The bulk of the long-term cost with desk-top software is paying a tech consultant to network the software among your computers. Moreover, your scheduling software is not available anywhere – only on computers on which it’s installed. Don’t even think about the cost when you upgrade computers or if you use a server.

Cloud computing solves all these problems because all you need is an Internet connection in order to access your software dashboard. You don’t have to pay for networking, installation, and/or have a server. Instead, most cloud-computing software services simply require a monthly payment for access. It’s easy to scale up – you simply add new users to your account. Your cost only increases as your business grows.

2. Get E-Commerce and Credit Card Payment Processing Integration

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could have customers pay upon self-booking their appointments? This frees up you and your staff from two time-consuming activities – booking appointments and taking payment.

Moreover, you can book appointments if you’re busy, thus reducing lost appointments. Often saving one booking will pay for an entire month’s software cost. Not to mention gain you another potentially loyal customer.

If you’re looking to get top-of-the line scheduling software, look for software that can process payments automatically upon a booking.

3. E-Mail and Text Messaging Reminders & Notices

Do you and your staff send out appointment reminders via e-mail and/or text messaging? This too is time-consuming. Maybe you don’t do this because you’re too busy – but wish you had the time or resources to send out reminders to reduce no-shows.

When deciding on scheduling software, be sure to opt for the capability for automated reminders. Yes, this is available. Once you have a customer’s contact information in your system, and a customer books an appointment, you can set up the software to automatically send e-mail reminders and text messaging reminders about upcoming appointments.

This serves three very important functions:

  • You’ll provide a great service reminding your customers about their upcoming appointment;
  • You’ll reduce no-shows; and
  • If a customer realizes they can’t make an appointment, they can re-schedule. This frees up appointment space which you can fill from your wait-list.

Speaking of wait-lists – with the right software, you can configure it so that once an appointment slot becomes available, e-mail notices are sent to your wait-list giving them an opportunity to take up that time – all done automatically.

4. Additional Sale Opportunities

Recurring Bookings:

Most small businesses earn the bulk of their revenues from loyal, repeat customers (especially service-based businesses that book appointments). With the right software, you can make it extremely easy for customers to book recurring appointments.

Perhaps they like to visit your business on the same day of each month. Instead of having to enter in their booking information manually for each month, use software to automate recurring bookings. Better yet, with self-scheduling, make it easy for your customers to book their own recurring appointments.

Packages:

Many small businesses that are appointment-based offer a variety of services. If you do, make it easy for your customers to create customized booking packages or you can create pre-arranged packages they can easily choose and book. This is a powerful up-selling option to earn more revenues per customer.

Gift Cards:

Gift cards are a very powerful sales tool. Not only do you make sales, but it’s a way to attract new customers. If you’re looking for powerful scheduling software, look for the ability to sell gift cards within the system.

Referral Tracking:

Do you offer referral incentives to your existing customers? If not, you’re missing out on using an extremely powerful sales tool. If you don’t, it’s probably because it’s a hassle to track referrals. You can automate referral tracking with some business scheduling software.

When a customer makes a referral, the software tracks that referral and credits the referring customer with whatever incentive you offer (i.e. discounts, free services, gift cards, etc.).

Online Point-of-Purchase Opportunities:

If you get scheduling software that has e-commerce capabilities, you automatically have a shopping cart available with which your customers can access while booking an appointment.

Point-of-purchase works both in-store and online. Why not increase sales by making it easy for your customers to buy your services and products online while they’re already in your system booking an appointment?

5. User-Friendly

If your customers can’t figure out how to book their appointments online or read your class/event schedule, then you’ve wasted your money. Sure, automated scheduling software will save you time – but the main goal is serving your customers. Look for a user interface that is extremely easy to use and pleasing to the eye.

6. Centralized Contact Database

Integrating your scheduling software with your contact database is absolutely crucial in order to get the most out of your scheduling software. Why? Because you can then use that contact database to manage your operations, financials, and of course leverage it for marketing.

When a new customer signs up with your business, you want scheduling software that automatically adds their data and profile to your contact database. Once in your database, you can leverage that information throughout your entire business’ operations from client management, report generation (to track your sales, attendance, etc.) to your marketing campaigns.

Impress Your Customers with Your Scheduling Software

If you offer self-booking capability and/or extremely informative up-to-date schedules on your website, you’ll impress new and existing customers. When they get reminders, they’ll be delighted. When you send them notices for openings, they’ll think the world of you and your business.

Even if you’re a small business, the right software doesn’t need to break your bank in order to appear and offer a level of service large, resource-rich companies offer. When you deliver a high level of customer service, you’ll build trust and make dealing with your business a pleasure.

Look for scheduling software that makes it extremely easy for your customers to use your services – and you’ll not only get more customers, but you’ll get regularly attending customers.

How Much Should You Pay for Business Scheduling Software?

This will depend on the size of your business and how many users you’ll need. Most cloud computing software pricing is based on the number of users. If you’re looking for some or all of the capabilities set out above, expect to pay at least $40 per month for a starter package.

I know getting desk-top software, which usually is a one-time payment, seems more attractive cost-wise. However, you’ll give up features, and in my experience, the cost for maintaining and upgrading desk-top scheduling software costs much more than the initial purchase cost.

I know, because I’ve used desk-top scheduling software and the cost alone for my tech consultant over the years is staggering.

Think of your “on-the-cloud” scheduling software as an investment. Better yet, if your software, because of its automation in booking and sending out reminders saves you one sale, that sale likely pays for your entire month’s cost of the cloud-computing solution.

As you can tell by reading much of the other content on this site, I’m in-tune with a great deal of software applications available for small businesses. I’m a small business owner and am always looking for ways to improve my customer service with technology (and automate processes to save me time).

I’ve used many business scheduling software applications, including Google’s online calendar. The problem with many scheduling software services is they are limited in features.

Sure, you might be able to integrate it with other software applications you have, but the ideal software is one that has all the features you’re looking for built-in the system itself. Integration sounds great on paper, but can be a real nightmare in practice.

Discover a fantastic small business scheduling software platform [http://www.websitetemplatereviews.com/mindbodyonline-features] that does all this and more. You can also check out an in-depth scheduling software review [http://www.websitetemplatereviews.com/in-depth-mindbodyonline-review-small-business-management-software] to learn more.

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Buyers Guide to Parental Control Software

The Internet is now part of our everyday live and people are learning more about both good and bad sides of the internet. Everyday almost we hear stories about predators looking for children on the internet in chat rooms on social communities as MySpace. Parents are more aware that there are lots of information, pictures and people on the net that can be harmful for children out there on the on hate site, pornographic site and etc. Then there is the problem of kids overusing the internet and developing internet addiction and therefore not showing up for school, getting bad grades and quitting their sports and hobbies.

Parents want to guide and watch their children but at the same time know they cannot be there all the time sitting with them when they are online. So even though parents are aware of the danger of the internet, talk to their kids and monitor them at home, parents know it is not possible to be the one that keep them safe all the time on the internet. They also know even if they trust them well, there are accidental search that can lead to harmful and material even they are not looking for it. So deciding on buying parental control software is considered a logical and responsible step more parents are taking.

Buying parental control software could be something you just take few minutes in doing. You sit down in front of the computer, “Google” some right words for it, press a link and buy a product. At the same time there is not certain that best software’s are those that will appear in top ten of Google search and you might be want to consider thinking what do I want my parental control software be able to do for me?

You could start buy asking other parents what they are using and asking for their experience. You could also try to browse around test look at their sites and read about that software; even send email to the sales apartment. You should check if the software has a 15 days trial period so you can test the software. Check for things like is the software being updated, which is very important in this day by day changing online world were dangers of the internet is always changing and software that the parental control software needs to work with is also updating and changing.

The biggest question you need to ask yourself when deciding on buying parental control software is the function of it. What do you want the parental software to do for you? Parental control software do not all have the same features and possibilities and you should therefore spend some time on thinking “what kind of parental control software do I need” Most of them will do different things for you and you may need different things for best safe surfing in your family. The possibilities are enormous. Let’s go over few things parental control software may have in their toolbox, so for you to use it in your buying guide you can look for those things you want to have when browsing through parental control website doing your own parental control software review.

Filtering: Does the software have filtering option? Most software will filter (pornographic filter, hate site filters, making bomb filter, violence filter etc. sites for you, but you may want to think how and how much control you have over the filtering system. 1. Does the parental control software have a database of blocked and family friendly sites? 2. Does the software allow you to create additional filtering list of sites you want to block? 3. Does the software have ability for you to only allow certain sites you choose and filter all other sites? 4. Does the software have a allow list have the ability to allow sites permanently and therefore overriding all other filtering system. 5. Does the software have dynamic content filter that block sites based on the content on each site you open?

Blocking software: You may also want to know if the parental control software is also blocking software, allowing you to block software’s you may think is harmful.

1. Does the software Block p2P file sharing like e.g. torrent software that are often used to download illegal software, music, movies, games and adult material?

2. Does it block chat programs?

3. Does the software block games that are considered more addictive e.g. MMORPG games?

4. Does the software allow you to choose additional software from the computer and block it?

Monitoring Software: You may want to check if the parental control software allows you to monitor the overall use of the computer and give you a good report on what has been happening. Does the software monitor all keystrokes that will enable you to read what has been written on the computer based on the software the words were written in? You may also want to have a screen shots recording in the software to able you to see how what has been happening in a form of picture of the screen. The screen shots recording is also good as a proof if something bad happens, e.g. Predator harassing the child, or some other child bullying the child on chat application. With screen shots you have a proof of what has happened after these incidents. Some software also has email monitoring of incoming and outgoing emails. Last option you may want to check for if the software monitors all cut and paste-ing on the computer both picture and text.

Time control software: This is a feature that can be extremely important in avoiding the computer will take too much time from school work, friends, sports and possibly preventing internet addiction. You may want to look closely into if the software allows you to specify how many hours a month, week and per day. You may want to control differently at what time of day and different between weekdays and weekends. At last the possibility of controlling some specific behavior such as applications or watching movies could be an option you want to check for

Protecting Privacy: The internet is a dangerous place for kids with predators lurking in chat rooms the importance of protecting privacy is important factor in buying a safe surfing tool as parental control software. Therefore a software that allow you to block user for sending out private information as address or phone number and/or take screen shots and notify you when private information are being sent from the home computer.

Alerts and Reports: Parental control software is not as useful if it never tell you what is happening. Good report system is important to go over the computer use and good alert system that notify you in an email or SMS can be extremely important to be able to get alert as soon as something bad things happen.

There are many other factors to look for, how easy to use the software is, is it doing what it is supposed to do, what kind of support can I a get and does the website provide me with some other useful tools or information’s. There are of course other things as well to look for as does the software provides me with specific tool for specific things I am aiming to avoid or control. These specific things could be related to e.g. all the emerging internet addiction, that is gaming addiction prevention, gambling addiction prevention, pornographic and cybersex addiction prevention. Are there some helpful tools for younger children or older children .

You may also want to look at how sure am I of being able to control the computer and my kid’s not just get around the software. You want to choose a software that is password protected, can be set in stealth mode and stop others from changing anything in the computer control panel.

Most important thing is to take your time searching, reading, asking, testing and in the end when you are happy choosing the right parental control software.

Bjorn Hardarson is a clinical psychologist with ten years of therapy experience, around 15000 therapy sessions. For more information on buying parental control software he recommends http://www.responsiblesurfing.com

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The Golden Age For Software Testing In China

The China’s Computer Market 2008 Forecast Report has been released recently. It showed that in the first three quarters of 2007, the software industry in China has registered sales revenue of $50 billion, up 23.6% on pcp, accounting for 10.95% of the entire electronics and information industry’ sales revenue. As the software market matures, people have higher and higher expectations over software features, quality and reliability. In October 2005, Ministry of Labour and Social Security formally listed computer software product tester (software test engineer) as one of the new professions. In only two years’ time, software testing has become a powerful dark horse in the software industry.

Steadily rising status

“In the early 1990s, software industry was still at an infant stage in China. Most software projects were very simple, the whole code writing and development process could be handled by one person. As industry competition intensified, software companies were gradually evolving from one-man-band small shops to software engineering co-operations. Although division of labour could improve software development efficiency and functional varieties, it also lead to increasing number of bugs between modules and deteriorating qualities,” said Mr Wang Yazhi from CONCEPT Information Technology Ltd, a major software development company in Beijing. Quality impairment would not only damage a software firm’s competitiveness, it could also lead to massive economic loss for software users or even personal injuries, such as medical accidents.

As China’s software enterprises continue to prosper, the importance of software testing has also been increasingly appreciated by software companies. Many large and medium software companies have begun recruiting professional staff to take care of software testing. Ms Ran Chunjuan, a former testing manager in Wuhan Superidea Technology Ltd, said that “in Superidea, the ratio between software testers and developers is 1:4. Although this is still well behind the international best practice of 1:1, it is still a great improvement from 1:8 a few years ago.”

Industry experience appreciated

In addition to lifting the number of software testing staff, many companies are demanding higher staff quality as well, especially in areas of professional testing experience and thinking ability. “A tester without professional training can still work out 3-5 testing methods, but not necessarily detect bugs. Even if bugs are discovered, he might not be able to express the problems in proper languages, which could increase developers’ workload. Those well-trained testers can work out 10-20 testing methods, such as boundary value analysis, equivalence classes and cause-effect diagrams, to maximally discover any bugs. Professional testers can also articulate testing documents in standardised languages, thus improving the recovery rates of software problems,” said Mr Liu Fei, a former testing manager in Qualcomm. Many companies in China have now established independent testing departments, working along with R&D departments.

As companies’ software testing knowledge deepens, work scope for testing staff is expanding from system testing phase to unit testing and integration testing phases. “This requires software testers to have in-depth knowledge about the businesses a product is involved in,” said a testing manager from Founder Group, one of China’s largest software companies, “for example, when we test software for banking applications, we have to first understand the specific users in the bank. Some operators only use keyboards in the office, but if we don’t know about this and design it as a mouse-friendly control, banks will not buy, it no matter how well the software works.” Therefore it could be forecast that the status for software testers who possess technical experience and customer demand knowledge will further enhance.

A sellers’ market

“The software testing industry is at a growth stage,” said Prof Zheng Renjie, a software testing expert. The current hot market for software testers is mainly due to the rapid development in software industry itself, “companies are demanding better quality software, which has in turn stimulated demand for software testers. But talent supply and talent training are lagging behind the dramatic changes in market demand, hence a telent shortage.”

At present, software testing talent shortfall in China has exceeded 200,000, and it is rising to the 300,000 threshold. According to statistics, total software tester supply from nationwide IT training institutions is less than 10,000 per year, thus it can be foreseen that the testing talent shortage could last another 5-10 years. At the same time, talent shortage has given leverage to tester remunerations. According to a remuneration report from 51Job.com in China, starting salary for software testing engineers ranges from $400 – 650 per month, and it could increase to $1200 – 1650 for engineers with 2 to 3 years’ experience, higher than the remuneration for many developers with similar service years. As the talent supply shortage continues into 2008, software testers’ remuneration is looking for more gains.

Education and training

The shortage in software testers in China has not only lifted the remuneration levels, not also created a boom for educational and training institutions. Even two years ago, several prominent IT professional training institutions had realised the importance of software testing positions, and organized a few domestic and international software testing experts to co-develop training courses, which have successfully cultivated lots of software testing talents in the past two years. Currently in China, apart from overseas recruitment and company internal training, external professional training is also an important channel for producing software testers, amounted to 12% of total talent supply. As companies are paying more attention to labour costs control, more professional talents are expected to come from external training institutions.

While professional IT training is booming, tertiary education institutions also began to test the water. In August 2007, the first software testing education forum was held in Shanghai by various government bureaus and universities, explicitly marking “software testing” a core area in software engineering courses in China. But Dr Chen Honggang, who had been involved in development and testing of projects such as Windows95, Internet Explorer 4.0/5.0 and SQL Server 2000, commented that although universities can ease some pressures on software testing talent educations, based on overseas experience, professional training will still be the main channel for supplying software testing talents.

For more information on Chinese businesses, please visit www.chinabizintel.com [http://www.chinabizintel.com]

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An Overview of Software Patenting

The concept of “intellectual property” in India over the last few years has taken on some epic proportions for a number of reasons. One of the primary reasons, attributable to the growing awareness among the urban Indian population, is of the significance and, more importantly, the commercial benefits in protecting its intellectual property rights both within and outside India. And under traditional principles of intellectual property protection, patent law is to encourage scientific research, new technology and industrial progress. The fundamental principle of patent law is that the patent is granted only for an invention i.e. new and useful the said invention must have novelty and utility. The grant of patent thus becomes of industrial property and also called an intellectual property. And the computer software is a relatively new recipient of patent protection.

The term “Patent” has its origin from the term “Letter Patent”. This expression ‘Letter Patent’ meant open letter and were instruments under the Great Seal of King of England addressed by the Crown to all the subjects at large in which the Crown conferred certain rights and privileges on one or more individuals in the kingdom. It was in the later part of the 19th century new inventions in the field of art, process, method or manner of manufacture, machinery and other substances produced by manufacturers were on increased and the inventors became very much interested that the inventions done by them should not be infringed by any one else by copying them or by adopting the methods used by them. To save the interests of inventors, the then British rulers enacted the Indian Patents and Design Act, 1911.

With respect to patentability of software -related inventions, it is currently one of the most heated areas of debate. Software has become patentable in recent years in most jurisdictions (although with restrictions in certain countries, notably those signatories of the European Patent Convention or EPC) and the number of software patents has risen rapidly.

MEANING OF SOFTWARE PATENTING

The term “software” does not have a precise definition and even the software industries fails to give an specific definition. But it is basically used to describe all of the different types of computer programs. Computer programs are basically divided into “application programs” and “operating system programs”. Application programs are designed to do specific tasks to be executed through the computer and the operating system programs are used to manage the internal functions of the computer to facilitate use of application program.

Though the term ‘Software patent’ does not have a universally accepted definition. One definition suggested by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure is that a software patent is a “patent on any performance of a computer realized by means of a computer program”.

According to Richard Stallman, the co-developer of the GNU-Linux operating system and proponent of Free Software says, “Software patents are patents which cover software ideas, ideas which you would use in developing software.

That is Software patents refer to patents that could be granted on products or processes (including methods) which include or may include software as a significant or at least necessary part of their implementation, i.e. the form in which they are put in practice (or used) to produce the effect they intend to provide.

Early example of a software patent:

On 21st Sep 1962, a British patent application entitled “A Computer Arranged for the Automatic Solution of Linear Programming Problems” was filed. The invention was concerned with efficient memory management for the simplex algorithm, and may be implemented by purely software means. The patent was granted on August 17, 1966 and seems to be one of the first software patents.

CONCEPTUAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COPYRIGHT AND PATENT

Software has traditionally been protected under copyright law since code fits quite easily into the description of a literary work. Thus, Software is protected as works of literature under the Berne Convention, and any software written is automatically covered by copyright. This allows the creator to prevent another entity from copying the program and there is generally no need to register code in order for it to be copyrighted. While Software Patenting has recently emerged (if only in the US, Japan and Europe) where, Patents give their owners the right to prevent others from using a claimed invention, even if it was independently developed and there was no copying involved.

Further, it should be noted that patents cover the underlying methodologies embodied in a given piece of software. On the other copyright prevents the direct copying of software, but do not prevent other authors from writing their own embodiments of the underlying methodologies.
The issues involved in conferring patent rights to software are, however, a lot more complex than taking out copyrights on them. Specifically, there are two challenges that one encounters when dealing with software patents. The first is about the instrument of patent itself and whether the manner of protection it confers is suited to the software industry. The second is the nature of software, and whether it should be subject to patenting.

However, issues involved in conferring patent rights to software are a lot more complex than taking out copyrights on them. Specifically, there are two challenges that one encounters when dealing with software patents. The first is about the instrument of patent itself and whether the manner of protection it confers is suited to the software industry. The second is the nature of software and whether it should be subject to patenting.

a) Different Subject Matters

Copyright protection extends to all original literary works (among them, computer programs), dramatic, musical and artistic works, including films. Under copyright, protection is given only to the particular expression of an idea that was adopted and not the idea itself. (For instance, a program to add numbers written in two different computer languages would count as two different expressions of one idea) Effectively, independent rendering of a copyrighted work by a third party would not infringe the copyright.

Generally patents are conferred on any ‘new’ and ‘useful’ art, process, method or manner of manufacture, machines, appliances or other articles or substances produced by manufacture. Worldwide, the attitude towards patentability of software has been skeptical.

b) Who may claim the right to a patent /copyright?

Generally, the author of a literary, artistic, musical or dramatic work automatically becomes the owner of its copyright.

The patent, on the other hand is granted to the first to apply for it, regardless of who the first to invent it was. Patents cost a lot of money. They cost even more paying the lawyers to write the application than they cost to actually apply. It takes typically some years for the application to get considered, even though patent offices do an extremely sloppy job of considering.

c) Rights conferred

Copyright law gives the owner the exclusive right to reproduce the material, issue copies, perform, adapt and translate the work. However, these rights are tempered by the rights of fair use which are available to the public. Under “fair use”, certain uses of copyright material would not be infringing, such as use for academic purposes, news reporting etc. Further, independent recreation of a copyrighted work would not constitute infringement. Thus if the same piece of code were independently developed by two different companies, neither would have a claim against the other.
A patent confers on the owner an absolute monopoly which is the right to prevent others from making, using, offering for sale without his/her consent. In general, patent protection is a far stronger method of protection than copyright because the protection extends to the level of the idea embodied by a software and injuncts ancillary uses of an invention as well. It would weaken copyright in software that is the base of all European software development, because independent creations protected by copyright would be attackable by patents. Many patent applications cover very small and specific algorithms or techniques that are used in a wide variety of programs. Frequently the “inventions” mentioned in a patent application have been independently formulated and are already in use by other programmers when the application is filed.

d) Duration of protection

The TRIPS agreement mandates a period of at least 20 years for a product patent and 15 years in the case of a process patent.

For Copyright, the agreement prescribes a minimum period of the lifetime of the author plus seventy years.

JURISDICTIONS OF SOFTWARE PATENTING

Substantive law regarding the patentability of software and computer-implemented inventions, and case law interpreting the legal provisions, are different under different jurisdictions.

Software patents under multilateral treaties:

o Software patents under TRIPs Agreement

o Software patents under the European Patent Convention

o Computer programs and the Patent Cooperation Treaty

Software patenting under TRIPs Agreement

The WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), particularly Article 27, are subject to debate on the international legal framework for the patentability of software, and on whether software and computer-implemented inventions should be considered as a field of technology.

According to Art. 27 of TRIPS Agreement, patents shall be available for any inventions, whether products or processes, in all fields of technology, provided that they are new, involve an inventive step and are capable of industrial application. (…) patents shall be available and patent rights enjoyable without discrimination as to the place of invention, the field of technology and whether products are imported or locally produced.”

However, there have been no dispute settlement procedures regarding software patents. Its relevance for patentability in the computer-implemented business methods, and software information technology remains uncertain, since the TRIPs agreement is subject to interpretation.

Software patents under the European Patent Convention

Within European Union member states, the EPO and other national patent offices have issued many patents for inventions involving software since the European Patent Convention (EPC) came into force in the late 1970s. Article 52 EPC excludes “programs for computers” from patentability (Art. 52(2)) to the extent that a patent application relates to a computer program “as such” (Art. 52(3)). This has been interpreted to mean that any invention which makes a non-obvious “technical contribution” or solves a “technical problem” in a non-obvious way is patentable even if a computer program is used in the invention.

Computer-implemented inventions which only solve a business problem using a computer, rather than a technical problem, are considered unpatentable as lacking an inventive step. Nevertheless, the fact that an invention is useful in business does not mean it is not patentable if it also solves a technical problem.

Computer programs and the Patent Cooperation Treaty

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is an international patent law treaty, which provides a unified procedure for filing patent applications to protect inventions. A patent application filed under the PCT is called an international application or PCT application. Under the PCT, the international search and the preliminary examination are conducted by International Searching Authorities (ISA) and International Preliminary Examining Authority (IPEA).

CURRENT TREND

However, before we start hailing the advent of a new era and equating the patenting of software in India it would be well worth our while to take a pause and examine the realities of software patenting. We could do this by looking at examples of countries in which software patenting has already become the order of the day, such as in the US and Japan .

United States

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has traditionally not considered software to be patentable because by statute patents can only be granted to “processes, machines, articles of manufacture, and compositions of matter”. i.e. In particular, patents cannot be granted to “scientific truths” or “mathematical expressions” of them. The USPTO maintained the position that software was in effect a mathematical algorithm, and therefore not patentable, into the 1980s. This position of the USPTO was challenged with a landmark 1981 Supreme Court case, Diamond v. Diehr. The case involved a device that used computer software to ensure the correct timing when heating, or curing, rubber. Although the software was the integral part of the device, it also had other functions that related to real world manipulation. The court then ruled that as a device to mold rubber, it was a patentable object. The court essentially ruled that while algorithms themselves could not be patented, devices that utilized them could.

But in 1982 the U.S. Congress created a new court i.e the Federal Circuit to hear patent cases. This court allowed patentability of software, to be treated uniformly throughout the US. Due to a few landmark cases in this court, by the early 1990s the patentability of software was well established.

Moreover, Several successful litigations show that software patents are now enforceable in the US. That is the reason, Patenting software has become widespread in the US. As of 2004, approximately 145,000 patents had issued in the 22 classes of patents covering computer implemented inventions.

Japan

Software is directly patentable in Japan. In various litigations in Japan, software patents have been successfully enforced. In 2005, for example, Matsushita won a court order barring Justsystem from infringing Matsuhita’s Japanese patent 2,803,236 covering word processing software.

Indian Position

With respect to computer software, in Patents (Amendment) Act, 2002, the scope of non-patentable subject matter in the Act was amended to include the following: “a mathematical method or a business method or a computer programme per se or algorithms”.

However, the recent amendment changes (Ordinance, 2004), which amends the Patents Act, 1970, has been promulgated after receiving assent from the President of India and has came into effect from 1st Jan., 2005. Apart from change in pharmaceuticals and agro chemicals, one of the seminal amendments this Ordinance seeks to bring is to permit the patenting of embedded software.
Hence, the amendment means that while a mathematical or a business method or an algorithm cannot be patented, a computer programme which has a technical application in any industry or which can be incorporated in hardware can be patented. Since any commercial software has some industry application and all applications can be construed as technical applications, obviously it opens all software patenting.

In any case, any company seeking to file a patent application for software under the Ordinance should ensure that its invention firstly, follows the three basic tests:

o Inventive Steps

o Novelty

o Usefulness

Therefore, it is important that the software sought to be protected is not merely a new version or an improvement over an existing code.

Further, in accordance with the specific requirements of the Ordinance with regard to patentability of software, the software should necessarily have a technical application to the industry or be intrinsic to or “embedded” in hardware. This is to prevent against any future litigation or claims of infringements being raised, which is a distinct probability even after a patent has been granted.

CONCLUSION

India for its part seems to have adopted the more conservative approach of the European patenting norms for software. But the Ordinance definitely has its use and relevance in today’s India, particularly for our growing domestic semi- conductor industry. This, along with judicial tempering might definitely ensure a judicious use of patent protection while allowing the industry to grow through innovations and inventions, thereby, mitigating the risks of trivial patents chocking the life out of real innovations and inventions. This is the reason a patent should always be treated as a “double edged sword”, to be wielded with caution and sensitivity.

Now whether, in reality this will be implemented on a rigid basis or will become broad in scope through application (as in the U.S.), and, more importantly, whether the Ordinance would, in fact, result in increased innovation and inventions in the software industry, remains to be seen.

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