When asking a computer scientist, I received a clear answer: does not exist. However from a legal perspective, "printed computer programs" do exist and a can be chosen as a class for CTM registration.

So what is a printed computer program?

  • Could this be that in order to register a computer program that one has to print out the source code of the program? – Jason Aller Aug 2 '15 at 2:01
  • "The source code" may be something that is changing because programs can be able to generate and execute source code while running (this is called metaprogramming).Printed source code does not sound like a product people sell and register a trademark for (like for t-shirts). – Daan Aug 2 '15 at 12:31
  • What jurisdiction? What research have you done besides ask a computer scientist? I found this US code definition of "computer program listing" with frankly rudimentary Google skills: "A computer program listing for the purpose of this section is defined as a printout that lists in appropriate sequence the instructions, routines, and other contents of a program for a computer." law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/37/1.96 – user662852 Aug 3 '15 at 16:56
  • @user662852 My question is about "printed computer programs", not about "computer program listing". Why should I care about the US law in this situation? The OHIM (which I refer to in my question) represents 28 countries, not just one. Your link describes a term I do not ask about based on a definition in a law of just one country. – Daan Aug 3 '15 at 17:55
  • If you bury the jurisdiction of interest in a 3rd party link, and get snippy in response to a question, good luck to you – user662852 Aug 3 '15 at 18:19

Why don't you ask your computer scientist how he would describe what comes out of the printer when he is looking at his computer program and presses "print"?

For the purposes of the law you cite, that is what it means.

Edit to address comments

The computer program stored in an electronic format is covered by a different section of copyright law (also referenced in the case you cite).

When the source code is printed then there is copyright in the printed source code. Alternatively, if a procedure was written by hand with a pencil and paper (i.e. never stored electronically) there is copyright in that; not that such an event is likely. Copyright exists in both the text of the program and the presentation on the paper; there could be circumstances where the presentation is important although I can't think of any. Copyright does not exist in the algorithms used - these may be patentable inventions but they are not protected by copyright, only the "literary work" aspect of a program is copyright.

In the case of the web browser presentation and the 3d-printing of a chair - neither of these are computer programs; they are the output of a computer program. The browser presentation is a "literary work" in its own right and covered by copyright. The chair is not a "literary work" and does not have copyright protection but it may be a registrable design.

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    Really, when the program is similar to word, each printed document would be a printed computer program? When the program is a web browser, your reply is a printed computer program? When the printer is a 3D printer and the program is 3D software, then my chair is a printed computer program? – Daan Aug 2 '15 at 1:56
  • The source code of a program is not a computer program at all. The actual program can change when changing the compiler settings. The actual source can be generated at runtime, depending on the user input (so called meta programming). If you have official documentation that explicitly says what a printed computer program is, please give a link. – Daan Aug 3 '15 at 2:09
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    @Daan do you really think politicians and judges understand computer science when they make/enforce laws? A judge will decide what "printed computer program" means if and when it ever comes up. – Dale M Aug 3 '15 at 2:11
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    Yes, some of them do. In the Netherlands for example it is possible to do a master to get trained as a judge for this. Students learn about both computer science and law. Did a judge ever took a decision on this so far? – Daan Aug 3 '15 at 18:04
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    @Daan I doubt that the use of a particular compiler setting is sufficiently creative to qualify as an additional copyrightable element. The final program that is the result of a mechanical transformation (compilation) is copyrightable insofar as its source code is copyrightable. If the compilation process does does involve some copyrightable creative step that is fixed in a tangible form (as a programmer, I have difficulty conceptualizing what this would look like) then that step, expressed in a tangible form, would also contribute to the copyrightability of the output. – apsillers Jul 11 '16 at 19:36

In order to be "copyrightable," a work such as a computer program needs to be "fixed in a tangible medium."

One way of doing this is "printing it out." Another way is "saving it to a disk" (or hard drive).

A program that is written and not saved to anything is not copyrightable, because it could be lost, along with all evidence of authorship.

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