"The topic is controversial in part because software companies often want the ability to patent their intellectual property, as copyright only protects the code as written. Find another way to represent a process or algorithm and you’ve worked around the copyright. But a patent covers the underlying function, not the particular approach to coding. Patents offer far stronger strategic value to software developers. And yet, others argue that software is too vague and patents in that area essentially allow people to own ideas. The proliferation of software patents in the U.S. has led to a veritable minefield through which any developer must carefully thread a path to develop something new, which discourages innovation."