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An Empirical Look at Software Patents

33 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2007  

James E. Bessen

Boston University - School of Law; Research on Innovation

Robert M. Hunt

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

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Software patents have grown rapidly in number and now comprise 15% of all patents. They are acquired primarily by large manufacturing firms in industries known for strategic patenting; only 5% belong to software publishers. The very large increase in software patent propensity over time is not adequately explained by changes in R&D investments, employment of computer programmers, or productivity growth. The residual increase in software patent propensity is consistent with a sizeable increase in the cost effectiveness of software patents during the 1990s, perhaps arising from changes in the application of patent law to computer software.

Suggested Citation

Bessen, James E. and Hunt, Robert M., An Empirical Look at Software Patents. Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 157-189, Spring 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=957925 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1530-9134.2007.00136.x

James E. Bessen (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Research on Innovation ( email )

202 High Head Rd.
Harpswell, ME 04079
United States
617-531-2092 (Phone)

Robert M. Hunt

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ( email )

Ten Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1574
United States
215-574-3806 (Phone)
215-574-7101 (Fax)

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