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James Bessen's Latest Paper on Software Patents
Monday, June 27 2011 @ 04:00 PM EDT

Anyone who has studied software patents and the debate about their utility has surely run across the work of James Bessen. We have certainly mentioned his past papers co-authored with Robert Hunt, Michael Meurer, and Eric Masking, and the Bessen/Meurer book, Patent Failure, takes an in-depth look at why our U.S. patent system does not work well with certain technologies, particularly software. Prof. Bessen has a new paper out entitled "A Generation of Software Patents." Not surprisingly, in the paper Bessen writes that "it is hard to conclude that software patents have provided a net social benefit in the software industry."

This paper is largely a compilation and survey of the literature on software patents, both for and against, that has published over the last several years, and it contains a number of useful nuggets. For example, while some have asserted that patents are important to software start-ups (see, High Technology Entrepreneurs and the Patent System: Results of the 2008 Berkeley Patent Survey, Stuart Graham et al, 24 Berkeley Tech. L.J. 1255, 1270-71 (2009) [PDF], in which they found "67% of software startups backed by venture capital held patents", Ron Mann conducted a regression analysis and found that “patenting practices have at best a minuscule ability to predict the success of a venture-backed software startup.” (See, Ronald. J. Mann & Thomas W. Sager, Patents, Venture Capital, and Software Start-ups, 36 Res. Pol'y 193, 197 (2007) [PDF]. Suffice it to say, there is some worthwhile reading in this paper and the various works referenced in it. Enjoy.

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