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Software patent quality worse than all other fields

Quality problems can happen in any category of patents, but the quality of software patents is particularly bad. This is probably a fundamental problem that can't be avoided in a domain as abstract as software.

The main cause is probably that software is too abstract, making and applying examination rules is just too difficult.

Evidenced in Allison's 2010 study

See also: Patent Quality and Settlement Among Repeat Patent Litigants

Page 28 (pdf page 29):

If we consider just patent owner wins and defendant wins on the merits, non‐software patent win 37.1% of their cases across both the most‐litigated and once‐litigated data sets, owners while software patentees win only 12.9%. If we include default judgments, non‐software patent owners win 51.1% of their cases, while software patentees win only 12.9%. Each of these results is highly statistically significant. (...) Once settlements are included, non‐software patent companies win judgments in 4.0% of their suits, while software patentees win judgments in only 1.4% of their suits. Adding default judgments changes these numbers to 7.2% for non‐software patent owners and 1.4% for software patentees.

Possible reasons

  1. Abstract algorithms can be described in so many ways.
  2. Jargon and lack of tangible components can make a mundane software idea sound technical.
  3. It's impossible for a patent examiner to judge obviousness. Software developers use so many ideas during their work, only a tiny percent ever get submitted to the patent office or otherwise published.


Related pages on ESP Wiki

External links


Why abolish software patents
Why abolish software patents Why focus only on software · Why software is different · Software patent quality worse than all other fields · Harm caused by all types of patents
Legal arguments Software is math · Software is too abstract · Software does not make a computer a new machine · Harming freedom of expression · Blocking useful freedoms
High costs Costly legal costs · Cost of the patent system to governments · Cost barrier to market entry · Cost of defending yourself against patent litigation
Impact on society Restricting freedom Harm without litigation or direct threats · Free software projects harmed by software patents · More than patent trolls · More than innovation · Slow process creates uncertainty
Preventing progress Software relies on incremental development · Software progress happens without patents · Reducing innovation and research · Software development is low risk · Reducing job security · Harming education · Harming standards and compatibility
Disrupting the economy Used for sabotage · Controlling entire markets · Breaking common software distribution models · Blocking competing software · Harming smaller businesses · Harming all types of businesses · A bubble waiting to burst
Problems of the legal system Problems in law Clogging up the legal system · Disclosure is useless · Software patents are unreadable · Publishing information is made dangerous · Twenty year protection is too long
Problems in litigation Patent trolls · Patent ambush · Invalid patents remain unchallenged · Infringement is unavoidable · Inequality between small and large patent holders