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The Age of Software Patents
April 1999 (vol. 32 no. 4)
pp. 25-31

Current law treats software as just another invention. It is not. Software is a new kind of entity, with the ability to transform all other technologies, including the creative arts, politics, and economics. It therefore requires separate treatment. In less than two decades, software development has evolved from being a legally defenseless enterprise to one in which almost every innovation is a candidate for patent protection. This transition occurred with minimal fanfare and little industry awareness—except in the R&D departments of giant corporations, where most software patents were quietly being obtained. Because the software patent phenomenon is so recent, its long-term effects are still unknown. What is certain is that patents will play a pivotal role in shaping future software products and research. Software patents, now barely noticed by most developers, will soon have a profound effect on R&D, as well as industrial profits. In fact, the correlation between revenue and patents could alter the direction of technology. Every programmer, manager, teacher, and researcher in the software industry should be aware of how patents work. This is especially true for professionals in the commercial software or Internet applications business because patents will influence these segments of the computer industry the most.

Citation:
Kenneth Nichols, "The Age of Software Patents," Computer, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 25-31, April 1999, doi:10.1109/2.755002
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