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Journal Title

Stanford Law Review


Conventional wisdom holds that computer software and computer hardware require two different species of intellectual property protection. Software is thought best protected by copyright law, while hardware is thought best protected by patent law, trade secret law or the Semiconductor Chip Protection Act of 1984. Recent technological and legal developments blur software-hardware distinctions, as courts have extended copyright protection to object code, firmware and microcode, and patent protection to software. This note argues that the standard industry conceptions of hardware and software are inadequate to answer the legal question of what is copyrightable as a computer program. Furthermore, it considers whether application specific integrated circuits (ASICs), which are, typically, semi-custom hardware solutions to engineering design problems traditionally solved in software, should qualify as computer programs for purposes of copyright protection.

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