Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back

How To Protect Trade Secret Information In Computer Programs When Seeking Copyright Registration

Written by: Mark A. Wright

Have you considered seeking a copyright registration for your computer program but had concerns about disclosing source code that contains trade secret information to the Copyright Office? If so, there is a way to register the copyright and protect the trade secret elements by providing alternative deposit materials to the Copyright Office.

When registering a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, an applicant must include deposit material (copies of the work), which material is then made part of the public record. With respect to entirely new computer programs, this generally means submitting the first and last twenty-five pages of the source code reproduced in a form visually perceptible without the aid of a machine or device. If an entirely new computer program is less than fifty pages, a visually perceptible copy of the entire source code is generally required as the deposit material.

Where a computer program contains trade secret material, however, the U.S. Copyright Office may allow a "special relief request." Such a request can generally be made by a cover letter explaining that the source code contains trade secrets and proposing an alternative form of deposit. The applicant must file the proper copyright application, requisite filing fee for each program, the page containing the copyright notice, if any, plus the modified deposit requirement.

With respect to entirely new computer programs which contain trade secrets, the Copyright Office generally allows one of the following modified deposit requirements:

  • The first twenty-five and last twenty-five pages of source code with the portions containing trade secrets blocked out; or
  • The first ten and last ten pages of source code alone, with no blocked out portions; or
  • The first twenty-five and last twenty-five pages of object code plus any ten or more consecutive pages of source code, with no blocked out portions; or
  • For programs fifty pages or less in length, the entire source code with trade secret portions blocked out.

In submitting blocked out portions of source code, the blocked out portions must be proportionately less than the material remaining and the visible portion must represent an appreciable amount of original computer code. Separate rules exist for revised computer programs.

It is therefore possible to obtain the benefits of registering a copyright while protecting trade secret information in a computer program. Applicants should carefully review their computer programs to ascertain if they contain trade secret information and, if so, should consider redacting such material and submitting an alternative deposit requirement to the U.S. Copyright Office.

Integrity and trust

At McLane Middleton we establish and maintain long-standing relationships with our clients to help us better achieve their unique goals over time. This approach to building trust requires that our esteemed lawyers and professionals use their broad, in-depth knowledge and work together with integrity to ascertain sound resolutions to legal matters for their clients.

Strength in numbers

McLane Middleton is made up of more than 105 attorneys who represent a broad range of clients throughout the region, delivering customized solutions. As a firm we are recognized as having the highest legal ability rating. The firm is rated Preeminent by Martindale Hubbell and is recognized as one of the nation's leading law firms in Chambers USA. Our attorneys are distinguished leaders in their respective practice areas.

Meet Our People

Commitment and collaboration

McLane Middleton's versatile group of attorneys and paralegals become trusted authorities on each case through collaboration. We work with our clients to learn their individual needs first and foremost and, together, we develop comprehensive solutions to their specific legal matters. This approach helps us exceed our clients' expectations efficiently and effectively, client by client, case by case.

Practice Areas

A history of excellence

McLane Middleton was established in 1919 in New Hampshire, and has five offices across two states. However, deep historical roots don't allow you to become innate. Our firm is organized, technological, and knowledgeable. Our history means we are recognized. But our reputation is built on the highest quality of service and experience in very specific areas of law.

The Firm

Intelligence paired with action

Our team continuously seeks opportunities to enhance their professional development and put key learnings to action. The pursuit of further insight guides us to volunteer service opportunities, speaking engagements, and teaching roles. Our lawyers are sought after thought leaders across their industries, and recipients of leadership awards throughout the region.