Embodied Software: Patents and the History of Software Development, 1946-1970


In the late 1960s, attorneys and programmers used the term "embodying software"' in reference to a patent-drafting technique for software inventions. This strategy consisted of claiming a pc in that a program served as the management system instead of claiming the program itself. If the applying was successful, this machine would receive patent protection in lieu of the program. This article argues that the histories of embodied software and software patenting are constitutive of, and inseparable from, one another. It traces the origins of embodying software to Bell Laboratories within the late Forties and studies the flowcharting program Autoflow to illustrate how and why firms embraced this method. The history of embodied software demonstrates that software patenting predated the birth of the software business, and it invites a revision of how we have a tendency to account for the history of software patents.

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