A report for the U.S. Congress takes on the problems present in software and biotechnology patents, and makes some recommendations for reform. The report concludes:

The multiplicity of patents involved in computer-related products has resulted in the extensive use of cross licensing in these industries such that one commentator argues: “licensing of software patents has become an industry unto itself.” Instead of promoting innovation, some experts maintain that the ownership of intellectual property has become an obstacle to the development and application of new ideas. The expansion in the number of patents associated with software is a consequence of the changes in patent law that make these patents easier to obtain, rather than an indication of increased innovative activity. There are indications, according to Bessen and Hunt, that patents are being substituted for increases in R&D. The substitution occurs in industries that patent strategically but not in other sectors. The propensity to patent software appears to be related to the utilization of the software by companies rather than to the R&D resources expended in developing the product. This is of interest because a rationale behind the patent system is that it provides incentives for the additional investments necessary to bring a product to the marketplace.

A breath of fresh air in patent policy?

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