Software Patents: What One-Click Buy and Safe Air Travel Have in Common

By: Michael Guntersdorfer

Have you ever sat in an airplane, typing on your laptop, when the darn thing crashes for the one-millionth time? Have you ever then thought about how the airplane you are sitting in is controlled by software, too–the technical term being “fly by wire”–and then started sweating uncontrollably? Software controls not only air traffic but plenty of other safety-critical technologies: the tightrope walk of controlling the chain reaction of radioactive elements in nuclear power plants; the navigation and activation of missiles;3 the moves and cutting-depth of a surgical laser when correcting eye-sights; the list goes on… With such reliance on software, malfunction due to errors in the program code becomes unacceptable. Software patents help heighten the standard by supporting the re-use of the code of established and tested systems.

Cite: 2002 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 0013