Computer Law involves the application of various laws to the use and development of computer technology including computer hardware and software, e-mail, web sites, and e-commerce.

Computer Law Example

State St. Bank v. Signature Financial
The court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit concluded that a data processing system for providing financial services was patentable subject matter.

Computer Law Fact

Although the Federal Circuit concluded in State St. Bank that certain data processing methods are patentable subject matter, the U.S. Patent Office allowed many software based patent applications to issue before the court's decision.

A combination of patent, copyright, and trade secret laws may be used to protect computer-related inventions. A patent can protect the features and functionality of a computer-related invention while a copyright registration protects the source code or "expression" of the invention. Trade secret law may be used to protect algorithms or other aspects of the invention not subject to patent and copyright protection. Patent or trade secret law may be used to protect the business methods associated with the operation of a program or web site. The use or misuse of computer technology may result in violations of privacy laws or tort and commercial laws as well as violations of criminal statutes or even the constitution. The law in this area continues to develop and evolve as does computer technology itself.

Any company that develops or uses computer technology to operate or support its business may encounter legal issues that fall within the scope of computer law. The related topics of software licensing, end user license agreements, free software licenses and open-source licenses can further involve issues related to product liability, professional liability of individual developers, warranties, contract law, trade secrets and intellectual property. The use of computer technology is so pervasive that almost every business has or will soon have a computer law issue to resolve.