More Data on Software Patents
According to David J. Stein, whose data is shown above, "It's interesting to note the logarithmic growth of issuing patents with titles containing terms like 'computer program' and 'software' that predates State Street Bank. This would seem to disprove the notion (common amongst opponents of software patents) that State Street led to a flood of software-related patent filings - rather, it looks very much like State Street merely acknowledged the inexorable trend of patent-worthy software."
Stein also observes from his data that "While the overall growth in software patents is logarithmic, the largest firms - IBM, HP, Intel, and Texas Instruments - seem to have plateaued. Even Microsoft, which has made a point of broadcasting its intention to bolster its patent practice, has only achieved linear growth. Thus, the largest developers of software appear to be securing a shrinking proportion of the annual software patent pool. This would seem to disprove another notion common amongst opponents of software patents: that these patents are primarily intended to benefit and entrench the positions of large, established firms."
Stein has written some software that builds a relational database modeling the patent class/subclass hierarchy so that it can be explored in a more user-friendly format. There's an online version and a downloadable version; both versions allow you to browse the hierarchy in tree/node format, jump to a particular class or subclass, and query the database by title or description keyword. The online version is available at http://www.djstein.com/USPTO_Class_Explorer/ while the the downloadable version is available at http://www.djstein.com/projects/USPTOClassifier.html.
Here is another bit of infomation that his software has uncovered: