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Author:Bessen, James 

Working Paper
An empirical look at software patents
U.S. legal changes have made it easier to obtain patents on inventions that use software. Software patents have grown rapidly and now comprise 15 percent of all patents. They are acquired primarily by large manufacturing firms in industries known for strategic patenting; only 5 percent 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 patent propensity is consistent with a sizeable rise in the cost effectiveness of software patents during the 1990s. We find evidence that software patents substitute for R&D at the firm level; they are associated with lower R&D intensity. This result occurs primarily in industries known for strategic patenting and is difficult to reconcile with the traditional incentive theory of patents
AUTHORS: Bessen, James; Hunt, Robert M.
DATE: 2004

Journal Article
The software patent experiment.
Over the past two decades, the scope of technologies that can be patented has been expanded to include many items previously thought unsuitable for patenting, for example, computer software. Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office grants 20,000 or more software patents a year. Conventional wisdom holds that extending patent protection to computer programs will stimulate research and development and, thus, increase the rate of innovation. In "The Software Patent Experiment," Bob Hunt and Jim Bessen investigate whether this has, in fact, happened. They describe the spectacular growth in software patenting, who obtains patents, and the relationship between a sharp focus on software patenting and firms' investment in R&D.
AUTHORS: Bessen, James; Hunt, Robert M.
DATE: 2004-07

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