Software as Intellectual Property

The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property (CPIP) at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School invite you to a panel discussion at the National Museum of American History.

Software as Intellectual Property

Wednesday, June 12, 2019
1:00 – 2:30 PM

Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of American History
1300 Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, DC
Coulter Performance Plaza (1st Floor West)

This event is free and open to the public–there is no registration.


Amazon’s famous one-click patent.


Software is everywhere – in our desktop applications, mobile phones, coffee makers, automobiles, and pacemakers – yet how to categorize it and protect the work of its authors, inventors, and coders has long been controversial. Is software patentable, copyrightable, or should some other domain of rights and property apply? As language that controls machines, generates virtual worlds, and creates and solves equations, software crosses traditional boundaries. Since the emergence of computer software in the 1940s, inventors, legal scholars, attorneys, and jurists have wrangled with a number of issues. Should a coded set of instructions (by itself) be eligible for intellectual property protection, or must the software be embedded physically in some device? To protect software, should developers apply for a patent or a copyright? Who should be responsible for detecting software piracy and infringement, and at what scale? How do we prevent overlapping or competing claims from stifling further innovation in one of our most dynamic industries?

Panelists will discuss the history and development of software IP protections while considering the concerns of inventors, corporations, and consumers.


1:00 – 2:30 PM Panel Discussion

  • Robert W. Bahr, Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
  • Gerardo Con Diaz, Assistant Professor, Science and Technology Studies, University of California, Davis, and Author, Software Rights: How Patent Law Transformed Software Development in America (Yale University Press, 2019)
  • Susann Keohane, Master Inventor, Global Leader for Healthy Aging & Longevity, IBM
  • Moderator: Arthur Daemmrich, Director, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • Closing Remarks: Kevin Madigan, Deputy Director, Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University