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July 23, 2014

Massive Growth in Software Usage the Real Reason for More Software Patents, Not Abuse

Is the increase in software patents over the last 30 years due to a patent system run amok, or is it simply because software has become ubiquitous?

According to the IEEE Global History Network, over 4 billion microcontrollers are sold each year worldwide.  (http://www.ieeeghn.org/wiki/index.php/Microcontroller) Yes, that is billion.  And that does not include microprocessor sales – sales of ARM based microprocessors total more than 6 billion a year. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_architecture)  Combined, that totals over 10 billion software-driven devices sold each year.  The sales of these devices alone, not to mention the software used to control them, comes to hundreds of billions of dollars.  Moreover, these microcontrollers and microprocessors have made possible one of the greatest waves of new innovation in the history of the world.

Considering that software is found in the pocket of virtually every adult in the US, in virtually every home and business in the US, in every car in the US, and in a multitude of other places and devices in every city and town, should we really be obsessing about an average of about 700 patent suits a year?   I think not.

Moreover, considering that nearly 300,000 patents are issued each year, it appears that that no more about than one in 500 ever gets asserted.  That hardly makes it seem like the USPTO has run amok issuing ridiculous patents.  Quite to the contrary, those that work in front of the USPTO in the software arts almost uniformly agree that the USPTO is anything but easy on examination of software patents.  That is pure, unsubstantiated, urban legend.

© 2014 Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner, P.A. All Rights Reserved.

About the Author

Shareholder

Steven Lundberg is a registered patent attorney and a founding partner of Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner. His practice is focused on patent protection for software, medical and telecommunications technology, and related opinion and licensing matters. Steve received his B.S.E.E. in 1978 from the University of Minnesota, and his law degree from William Mitchell College of Law (J.D., 1982). He has published and spoken widely on software and electronic patent protection, is active in the Computer and Electronics Committee of the American Intellectual Property Law Association, and a co-...

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