What is the Impact of Software Patent Shifts? Evidence from Lotus v. Borland

Innovation and Economic Growth, Intellectual Property, Copyright and Trademark and Patents

Article Snapshot


Josh Lerner and Feng Zhu


Harvard NOM Working Paper No. 05-11, October 2005


This paper looks at whether growth in software patents hurts software firms.

Policy Relevance

Many vocal software critics assert that software patents are harmful, but the evidence suggests software patents were not harmful and might have had net benefits.

Main Points

  • In a well-known copyright case, Lotus v. Borland, the courts weakened copyright protection for software.
  • Software firms responded by increasing their patenting.
  • Increased reliance on patents was accompanied by growth in sales, assets and R&D, although not all of this is necessarily caused by patents.  

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