Debugging Software's Schemas

28 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2014

Date Written: February 6, 2014


In computer terminology, a schema is a model to describe structures for containing and processing data. A flawed schema in the computer world is a bug; the result may be unexpected behavior or even system shutdown. In cognitive theory, a schema is a structure or framework that helps organize and interpret information. Incorrect schema in this realm can lead to flawed decision making or understanding. These two worlds – computer science and cognitive science – have collided at the intersection of eligibility for patent protection of software and computer-related inventions; unfortunately, the resulting system is in dire need of debugging.

The frameworks that are currently influencing decision making about software patents include the analysis that software patents are generally bad (the bad patent schema) and that software patent holders are problematic (the troll schema). These schemas have been created and maintained through various cognitive biases, resulting in flaws that are negatively impacting the conversation about patent eligibility for software and computer-related inventions. With awareness of these biases, it is possible to minimize the negative impact. But even if we are able to eliminate the biases, there exists an even bigger bug in the system: the framework underlying the discussions about software patents is incorrect. Although the primary question affecting the patent eligibility of these inventions is whether they are abstract ideas, the framework has very little, if anything, to do with that question. With an incorrect structure driving the discussion, reaching a correct result is unlikely.

Suggested Citation

Osenga, Kristen, Debugging Software's Schemas (February 6, 2014). George Washington Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Kristen Osenga (Contact Author)

University of Richmond - School of Law ( email )

203 Richmond Way
Richmond, VA 23173
United States
804-289-8112 (Phone)

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