Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



This Note analyzes the propriety of granting patent law protection to computer software by viewing this problem from economic, legal, public and technological policy perspectives. Part II explains the relationship between computer hardware and software, discusses the role of algorithms in software development,and traces the development of the computer software industry.Part III analyzes the economic policies underlying the patent system. Part IV identifies the patent law principles that are relevant to the software patentability issue and discusses their underlying policy foundations. Part V examines the Supreme Court's application of these principles in the leading software patent cases and concludes that the Court's failure to understand computer technology has caused it to withhold patent protection from computer software. Part V reveals that the Supreme Court has mischaracterized software algorithms by treating them as unpatentable mathematical laws. Part VI of this Note analyzes the benefits and costs of granting patent protection to computer software and demonstrates the compelling societal need for this protection. 'Part VI also proposes an addition to the Patent Office of a small staff of computer science experts to remedy the administrative problem of processing software patent applications.