COMPUTER READABLE STORAGE
MEDIUM FOR PROVIDING REPEATED
CONTACT WITH SOFTWARE END-USER
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED 5
This application is a divisional of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/573,659, filed on May 18, 2000, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,502,195, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/535,321, filed on Mar. 27, 2000, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,460,142, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/090,620, filed on Jun. 4,1998, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,044,471, the disclosures of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety.
The present invention relates to computer readable storage media for repeatedly contacting software and/or software end-users and providing information, such as software 20 passwords, marketing, advertising, and/or promotional material.
Software developers are often victims of illicit copying 25 and unauthorized use of their software in violation of contractual obligations imposed by licensing agreements and subject to civil and criminal penalties under various domestic and foreign laws. Unauthorized entities range from a relatively small percentage of the total users to an over- 30 whelming majority of illegal users. Such unauthorized use not only amounts to theft of the developers' intellectual property, but also reduces the number of programs sold and therefore the associated profitability of the developer. This may ultimately diminish the creative effort expended by the 35 software developers due to the reduced financial incentive. The advent of the Internet has contributed to the proliferation of pirated software, known as "warez", which is easily located and readily downloaded.
Various strategies have been employed to make unauthorized duplication and use of software more difficult. One such approach is to provide a hardware "key" which is typically installed in the parallel port of the computer to provide a software interlock. If the key is not in place, the ^ software will not execute. This method is relatively expensive for the developer and cumbersome for the authorized user while remaining vulnerable to theft by duplication of the hardware key.
Another approach requires the user to enter a serial 50 number or customer identification number during installation of the software. Missing or invalid registration information prevents installation of the software. This approach is easily defeated by transferring the serial number or customer identification number to one or more unauthorized 55 users.
Yet another approach requires registering the software with the manufacturer or distributor to obtain an operational code or password necessary for installation of the software. Again, once the operational code or password is obtained, it go may be perpetually transferred along with pirated copies to numerous unauthorized users.
Various copy protection strategies have been employed to reduce the number of unauthorized copies available. This approach is generally disfavored by users who may have a 65 legitimate need to make backup or archival copies or transfer a copy to a new computer or hard drive.
While prior art strategies have enjoyed various levels of success in reducing unauthorized use of software, they often impose a significant burden on the authorized users or are easily defeated by unauthorized users. As such, software developers need an apparatus and/or method for reducing unauthorized use of software which does not burden the authorized users to dissuade them from purchasing and using the protected software.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Thus, one object of the present invention is to provide an apparatus and method for improving software security throughout the lifetime of the software.
Another object of the present invention is to provide an apparatus and method for monitoring the number of users of a software product, both authorized and unauthorized.
Yet another object of the present invention is to provide an apparatus and method for the software manufacturer to maintain contact with the user over an extended period of time to provide repeated opportunities for promotional and marketing purposes, for example.
A further object of the present invention is to provide a method and apparatus for reducing unauthorized use of software which facilitate periodic software updates and forwarding of information, when and if desired.
A still further object of the present invention is to identify those entities responsible for unauthorized copying or use of software so that appropriate action may be taken, such as disabling the software, requesting payment from the user, or seeking civil or criminal penalties.
Another object of the present invention is to provide a method and apparatus for reducing unauthorized software use which deactivates unauthorized copies when an unauthorized user attempts to obtain a password.
In carrying out the above objects and other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention, a method for providing continuing contact with a software user to repeatedly transfer information to the user includes receiving registration information from the user, transferring authorization information to authorize continued use of the software beyond a current authorization interval, and transferring marketing, promotional, or advertising information each time the user or software requests authorization for continued use beyond the current authorization interval. In one embodiment, the present invention transfers authorization information which authorizes use of the software for an authorization interval based on value of the software with value being determined by retail price or the availability of subsequent versions, for example. The user or software may automatically contact a manufacturer or authorized agent preferably prior to expiration of the current authorization interval to provide continuous uninterrupted operation of the software.
The present invention contemplates, but does not require, more frequent password updates for more complex software because it is generally more costly to develop (and therefore more valuable to users) whereas less costly software would require fewer password updates to reduce administrative costs associated with password maintenance.
Password or authorization code updates may be obtained automatically or manually. Automatic updates are accomplished using electronic communication between the manufacturer's computer (or an authorized representative) and the user's computer. Updates may be performed by a direct modem connection, via email, a web browser, or the like.