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Proprietary vs. Nonproprietary — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Maham Liaqat — Updated on March 27, 2024
Proprietary refers to software or products owned by an individual or company, with restrictions on use and modification. Nonproprietary, however, implies openness, allowing use, modification, and sharing without ownership constraints.
Proprietary vs. Nonproprietary — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Proprietary and Nonproprietary


Key Differences

Proprietary software or products are developed and owned by a specific entity, often accompanied by copyright protection. This means users are typically required to obtain licenses to use or distribute them, and modifications are generally restricted. On the other hand, nonproprietary items are not owned by any individual or entity, promoting a more open environment where users are free to use, modify, and distribute the product or information without the need for licenses or facing legal restrictions.
Proprietary solutions usually come with customer support and regular updates from the owning company, offering a certain level of reliability and security for the user. Whereas nonproprietary solutions rely on community-based support and updates, which can be highly effective and innovative but might lack the consistency and accountability of a single provider.
In terms of cost, proprietary products often involve purchase costs or recurring subscription fees, reflecting the company's investment in development and support. Nonproprietary options, however, are typically available for free or at minimal cost, aiming to promote widespread access and collaboration.
When it comes to customization, proprietary products may offer limited options based on the owner's provisions, protecting the intellectual property and business interests. In contrast, nonproprietary products are generally more flexible, allowing extensive modifications to meet the specific needs of users, thanks to their open nature.
The choice between proprietary and nonproprietary often depends on the user's needs, such as the requirement for professional support and reliability, versus the need for customization and cost-effectiveness. Proprietary solutions might be preferred by businesses requiring dependable support and service guarantees, while nonproprietary options appeal to those prioritizing flexibility, community collaboration, and lower costs.

Comparison Chart


Owned by individual or company
Not owned; open to public

Use & Modification

Restricted; requires permission
Free to use and modify

Support & Updates

Provided by owner


Purchase or subscription fees
Free or minimal cost


Limited by owner
Highly flexible

Compare with Definitions


Relating to an owner or ownership.
The software's proprietary rights prevent unauthorized distribution.


Not restricted by copyright or patent; openly available.
The researcher used nonproprietary software for the simulation.


Exclusive knowledge or tools owned by a company.
The firm developed a proprietary algorithm for data analysis.


Generic; not branded or owned.
The medication is available as a nonproprietary drug.


Products or services only available through specific vendors.
The printer uses proprietary ink cartridges.


Public domain information or technology.
The data is released under a nonproprietary license for public use.


Customized solutions developed for individual business needs.
The company invested in proprietary software to enhance operational efficiency.


Open-source software or technology.
He contributed to the nonproprietary operating system project.


Legally protected by patents or copyrights.
The proprietary formula is patented to prevent


Community-driven projects or products.
The platform thrives on nonproprietary community contributions.


Relating to an owner or ownership
The company has a proprietary right to the property


Lacking proprietary value; not private or privileged information.


(of a product) marketed under and protected by a registered trade name
Proprietary brands of insecticide


Not protected by trademark, patent, or trade secret and thus open to commercial use without license; said of drugs (medications) and of various kinds of goods and materials.


Of or relating to a proprietor or to ownership
Had proprietary rights.


A drug that is not proprietary.


Privately owned, as a business
A proprietary hospital.


Not protected by trademark or patent or copyright;
Nonproprietary products are in the public domain and anyone can produce or distribute them


Owned by a private individual or corporation under a trademark or patent
A proprietary drug.


A proprietor or group of proprietors.


Ownership; proprietorship.


A proprietary medicine.


One granted ownership of a proprietary colony.


Of or relating to property or ownership.
Proprietary rights


Owning something; having ownership.
The proprietary class


Created or manufactured exclusively by the owner of intellectual property rights, as with a patent or trade secret.
The continuous profitability of the company is based on its many proprietary products.


Nonstandard and controlled by one particular organization.
A proprietary extension to the HTML standard for Web page structure


Privately owned.
A proprietary lake; a proprietary chapel


Possessive, jealous, or territorial.


A proprietor or owner.


A body of proprietors, taken collectively.


The rights of a proprietor.


A monk who had reserved goods and belongings to himself, notwithstanding his renunciation of all at the time of profession.


(espionage) A company doing legitimate business while also serving as a front for espionage.


A proprietor or owner; one who has exclusive title to a thing; one who possesses, or holds the title to, a thing in his own right.


A body proprietors, taken collectively.


A monk who had reserved goods and effects to himself, notwithstanding his renunciation of all at the time of profession.


Belonging, or pertaining, to a proprietor; considered as property; owned; as, proprietary medicine.


An unincorporated business owned by a single person who is responsible for its liabilities and entitled to its profits


Protected by trademark or patent or copyright; made or produced or distributed by one having exclusive rights;
`Tylenol' is a proprietary drug of which `acetaminophen' is the generic form

Common Curiosities

What is proprietary software?

Software that is owned by an individual or company, with restrictions on its use and modification.

How can I tell if a software is proprietary?

It will typically require a purchase or subscription, and its terms and conditions will restrict modification and redistribution.

Can I modify proprietary software?

Typically, modifications are restricted unless permission is granted by the owner.

What does it mean if something is open source?

Open source refers to software whose source code is available for modification and redistribution.

Can nonproprietary software be used for commercial purposes?

Yes, nonproprietary software can often be used for commercial purposes, but it's important to check the specific license it's released under.

What are the benefits of nonproprietary software?

Benefits include flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and the promotion of innovation through community collaboration.

Are there any free proprietary software?

Some proprietary software may be offered for free, but with restrictions on modification and commercial use.

What is a nonproprietary name?

It’s a generic name for a product, not protected by trademark.

Are proprietary products more expensive than nonproprietary products?

Generally, yes, due to development costs and the support services offered.

Is community support effective for nonproprietary products?

Community support can be highly effective and innovative, though it may lack the consistency of proprietary support.

What is the main disadvantage of nonproprietary software?

It may lack the dedicated support and reliability that proprietary software offers.

Why do companies choose proprietary software?

Companies may choose it for the professional support, reliability, and security it provides.

Can proprietary products become nonproprietary?

Yes, if the owners decide to release it under an open license or if the patents expire.

Can I contribute to nonproprietary projects?

Yes, most nonproprietary projects encourage community contributions.

Is Android proprietary or nonproprietary?

Android has both proprietary components (Google’s services) and nonproprietary components (the Android Open Source Project).

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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