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Software patents have received a great deal of attention in the academic literature. Unfortunately, most of that attention has been devoted to the problem of whether software is or should be patentable subject matter. With roughly eighty thousand software patents already issued, and the Federal Circuit endorsing patentability without qualification, those questions are for the history books. The more pressing questions now concern the scope to be accorded software patents. In this Article, we examine the implications of some traditional patent law doctrines for innovation in the software industry. We argue that patent law needs some refinement if it is to promote rather than impede the growth of this new market, which is characterized by rapid sequential innovation, reuse and re-combination of components, and strong network effects that privilege interoperable components and products.


Copyright 2001 by the California Law Review, Inc. Reprinted from California Law Review, Vol. 89, by permission of the Regents of the University of California.

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89 Cal. L. Rev. 1-57 (2001)