Software Patent and its Impact on Software Innovation in Japan

Author Name MOTOHASHI Kazuyuki  (Faculty Fellow, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. August 2009 09-E-038
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In Japan, the software patent system has been reformed and now software has become a patentable subject matter. In this paper, this pro-patent shift on software is surveyed and its impact on software innovation is analyzed. Before the 1990's, inventions related to software could not be patented by themselves, but they could be applied when combined with hardware related inventions. Therefore, integrated electronics firms used to be the major software patent applicants. However, during the period from the late 1990's to the early 2000's, when software patent reforms were introduced, innovative activities (measuring patent applications) by independent software development firms began.

We used datasets linking the IIP (Institute of Intellectual Property) patent database (individual patent datasets by using JPO's publication data) and firm level data from the Survey on Selected Services (software part) (METI) and the Basic Survey of Business Activity and Structure (METI). Based on the panel datasets from approximately 550 firms from 2001 to 2005, we found that patent applications from software firms gradually increased from the 1990's, while we were unable to find a direct impact of software patent system reforms. In addition, it was also found that patent application is positively related to a software company's independent strategy of subcontracting out system headed by large system integrators.