Bessen & Hunt show that strategic, anticompetitive and defensive use of patents tends to concentrate in software patents, because they are easier to obtain (they don't require experimentation or prototyping, not even writing a program). They are also broader, because software is not subject to physical constraints and can therefore be composed into more complex systems, potentially infringing on hundreds of patents per program. This causes a patent buildup simlar to a cold war arms race that discourages innovation and competition, and instead of bringing new products to consumers, reduces their choice and their access to infomation society, resulting in significant costs and less productivity for businesses.
- The original research paper
- James Bessen (Research on Innovation and MIT) and Robert M. Hunt (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia) in a study published in May 2003 present extensive statistical data and analysis to corroborate their hypothesis that software patenting has substituted rather than promoted R&D investments. Software patents are serving as cheap alternatives to real innovation.
- Bessen & Maskin 2000: Sequential Innovation
- This article is written by two researcher from MIT and concludes, after giving mathematical models and experimental evidence, that in a dynamic world such as the software industry or consulting industry, firms may have plenty of incentive to innovate without patents and patents may constrict complementary innovation. It concludes that copyright protection for software programs (which has gone through its own evolution over the last decade) may have achieved a better balance than patent protection. This new model suggests another, different rationale for narrow patent breadth than the recent economic literature on this subject.