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Software patent quality worse than all other fields

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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.


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