Patent as a protection mechanism for software has become significant only in recent periods, beginning with the Diamond v Diehr decision in 1981 and additional court decisions in the US in the 1990s that significantly widened the scope of patentable subject matter to include computer-implemented methods and processes. These decisions, along with pervasive growth of computer technologies, have resulted in very rapid growth in US software patents,  which more than tripled between 1991 and 2001, and nearly tripled again between 2001 and 2011.  These growth rates far outstrip the rate of overall US patents growth, and by 2011, nearly one in five patents issued by USPTO are classified as software.   The implications of this explosive growth in software invention are many. In this talk, I will focus on the issue of whether software invention provides greater opportunities for new entrants (“digital dividends”), or increases dominance by incumbent ICT firms (“digital divide”).  The talk will review the key economic arguments, and present preliminary evidence on the changing share of software patenting by countries and by large incumbent firms over time to shed light on the emerging trend.     

WONG Poh Kam is Professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School where he teaches entrepreneurship and innovation strategy with a special focus on Asia.   He is also Professor (by courtesy) at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the Faculty of Engineering at NUS.  He obtained two BSc.’s, an MSc. and a Ph.D. from MIT.  He has published extensively in leading international refereed journals on entrepreneurship and innovation, including Organization Science, Information Systems Research, Research Policy, Journal of Business Venturing, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, Journal of Management, Scientometrics, IEEE Trans Engineering Management, Small Business Economics and World Development.  He has consulted widely for international agencies such as the World Bank, OECD and Asian Development Bank, various government agencies in Singapore, and many private corporations in Asia.  He was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at U.C. Berkeley, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, and is currently a Senior Visiting Scholar at the Technology Management for Development (TMD) Centre, Oxford University.  

In addition to his academic position, he is also concurrently the Director of NUS Entrepreneurship Centre, where he spearheads the university’s experiential entrepreneurship education programs and oversees the NUS Enterprise Incubator (NEI), which provides incubation space, seed funding, mentorship and network connections to early stage investors for start-ups by NUS students, professors and alumni. An entrepreneur who co-founded three companies prior to joining academia, he has been an active angel investor with investment in over a dozen high tech start-ups in Singapore, Silicon Valley, China and India.  He was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Silver) by the Singapore Government in 2013 for his contribution to education in Singapore.

Convenors: Dev Gangjee, Emily Hudson & Robert Pitkethly. Directions to the seminar room from the Porter’s Lodge. Refreshments provided, all are welcome (registration not required) (Please direct enquiries to