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I frequently hear on the news about enforcement of patent infringements on physical products, such as various types of wrenches, machinery, and toys.

However, I cannot recall a situation where an online business has been sued for creating a product that is almost identical to another product. For example, in the case of video game app offerings for phones, whenever a new trend emerges, a multitude of copycat products seem to follow.

Initially, I thought this was because the rate of ripoffs is so high that the original creators are unable to file claims as quickly as new copies appear. However, I have also observed that large corporate groups, such as Ketchapp and Voodoo, often have entire portfolios consisting of slightly modified versions of popular products created by competitors.

It is difficult to understand how this is feasible, and copyright law for digital services seems to be less effective than for physical products. Please keep in mind, I am not from a legal background and am simply curious about this.

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    Patents and copyright are very much apples and oranges, and this has nothing to do with physical/digital.
    – Greendrake
    Jul 24, 2020 at 7:26
  • Just because two games have similar ideas, does not mean they are copies.
    – Brandin
    Jul 31, 2020 at 13:18
  • See “Colin the caterpillar” vs “Cuthbert the caterpillar”.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 5, 2022 at 8:26

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Patents protect inventions, Copyright protects artistic or literary creation

Software does not qualify for patents. In some jurisdictions but by no means most, algorithms and business processes can be patented.

Software, both the literary (code) and artistic (UIJ) work, is protected by copyright which prevents copying the expression but not the idea. So software writers can take inspiration from other software but can’t copy it.

So, things that look like copyright infringement often aren’t but things that look like patent infringement often are.

Patents last for a short time (10-20 years) and take a lot of investment of time and money so their owners are incentivised to commercialise them quickly and on a large scale.

Copyright lasts for a long time (life of the creator(s) + 50 years minimum depending on jurisdiction) and come into existence automatically. In general, it is easier to create a literary or artistic work than a novel invention.

So, patent owners are more incentivised to protect their IP than copyright owners.

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  • Thank you for this insight. Do you know if patents and copyrights are usually managed by the same/separate institutions (In the US and Canada to be precise)?
    – AlanSTACK
    Jul 24, 2020 at 23:13

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