The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) awarded 40,964 software patents in 2006, according to data compiled by the Public Patent Foundation.
Software patents filed in 2006 grew by 36 percent year-over-year, and have been on a gradual increase since the USPTO first started awarding them in 1982.
The Public Patent Foundation strives to protect the public against the harms caused by the patent system. The group tries to invalidate patents that have been wrongly issued and lobbies for reform of the patent system.
Software patents are considered major problem for innovation because they defeat the purpose of the patent system.
Whereas patents were originally intended to protect the investments made by inventors and companies to develop new products and technologies, many software patents cover trivial technologies that cost little to create.
Opponents of software patents are mostly large companies such as Microsoft and SAP which have created vast patent portfolios.
Critics, however, believe that these patents are used to prevent new competitors from entering a market, rather than to protect the inventor's intellectual property.
They often point to the success of open source applications as proof that society is better off when information and knowledge is allowed to flow freely.
Software patents set new record in 2006
By Tom Sanders on Jan 9, 2007 9:11AM