Martin Goetz, who received the first software patent, dies at 93

Martin Goetz, who received the first software patent, dies at 93

Martin Goetz, who joined the computer industry in its infancy as a programmer in the mid-1950s. Univac Mainframe and who later received the first US patent for software, died at his home in Brighton, Mass. on October 10. He was 93 years old.

His daughter Karen Jacobs said the cause was leukemia.

In 1968, about a decade after he and several other partners started the Applied Data Research Company, Mr. Goetz received his patent, for data-sorting software for mainframes. This was major news in the industry: an article in Computerworld magazine was titled “First patent for software is issued, full implications not known.”

Until then, software was not seen as a patentable product and was bundled into giant mainframes built by IBM. Ms. Jacobs said her father patented his own software so that IBM could not copy it and put it on its machines.

“By 1968, I had been involved in the debate about the patentability of software for about three years,” Mr. Goetz said in the oral history Interviewed for the University of Minnesota in 2002. “I knew that at some point the patent office would recognize it.”

What Mr. Goetz called his “sorting system” is believed to have been the first software product sold commercially, and his success in securing the patent led him to become a vocal champion of patent software. Programs that instruct computers what to do are often patent-eligible, just like the machines themselves, he said.

The issuance of Mr. Goetz’s patent “helped managers, programmers and lawyers of young software firms feel as if they were creating an industry of their own – one in which they were making products that were potentially profitable. and were legally defensible as a proprietary invention,” gerardo con diazProfessor of Science and Technology Studies at the University of California, Davis, wrote in his 2019 book “Software Rights: How Patent Law Transformed Software Development.”

Robin Feldman“The world we live in now, in which app stores and software were invented in someone’s garage, can be attributed to Goetz’s vision, his scientific innovation and Tends to stubbornness.” Persistence.”

(Worldwide software market revenue in 2022 was approximately $610 billion, according to statistaA data and business intelligence firm.)

Mr. Goetz and his company took another step toward opening up the software market. In April 1969, Applied Data Research filed an antitrust lawsuit against IBM, accusing it of illegally setting the same price for its equipment and software – essentially giving away the software for free – and differentiating them. Called to do. The lawsuit was part of a series of legal actions taken by Applied Data Research, two other companies, and the U.S. Department of Justice within four months of each other.

That June, IBM agreed to unbundling.

Applied Data Research nevertheless continued its lawsuit. It was settled in August 1970; The terms included an agreement to supply IBM with one of its programs, Autoflow.

“Not only did he get what he wanted,” Ms. Jacobs said, “ADR started selling more products and opened doors for the independent software industry.”

In 1976, Mr. Goetz was a government witness in the Justice Department case against IBM.

“I loved the opportunity to tell the world why IBM’s unbundling was a boon to the user community,” he wrote in a two-part memoir published in 2002 in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Annals of the History of Computing. “It was a great experience for me and ADR”

Martin Alvin Goetz was born on April 22, 1930 in Brooklyn. His father, Jacob, lost his men’s clothing store during the Great Depression and then sold ties on street corners until his death in 1943. His mother, Rose (Friedman) Goetz, worked in the store and, after her husband’s death, in the Navy Yard during World War II in Brooklyn.

After his father’s haberdashery business closed, the family moved into a lower-priced apartment six consecutive times. When Marty was 12, he started delivering meat to a butcher.

He attended the exclusive Brooklyn Technical High School. His college education – first at Brooklyn College and then at the City College of New York – was cut short by his service in the Army with the 2nd Armored Division in Texas. He received a bachelor’s degree in business statistics from City College in 1953, and a master’s degree in business administration from the same school eight years later.

After graduation, he worked as a supervisor at AC Nielsen, analyzing radio ratings. He then answered a newspaper advertisement for a programmer in the UNIVAC division of Remington Rand, where he spent 12 weeks as an apprentice, learning how to program the pioneering mainframe.

“I loved it,” he wrote in his 2002 memoir, “and it was programmed in my brain when I drove my car.”

He spent four years at Sperry Rand (Remington Rand merged into Sperry Corporation in 1955), working with clients such as pharmaceutical manufacturer Parke-Davis and New York utility Consolidated Edison. He created his first sorting program for Con Edison’s billing system.

“I kind of got sucked into it,” he said in the oral history. “I never really thought about sorting until it was required at Con Edison.”

He moved to IBM’s Applied Programming Group for a job in 1958, but he did not stay long: he and his colleagues started Applied Data Research the next year.

The company went public in 1965 and became a leader in the software industry. After 10 years as senior vice president and director of the Software Products Division, Mr. Goetz was named president in 1984.

“I don’t expect my life to change much,” he told The New York Times after his promotion. “I’m running 85 percent of the business. The promotion actually increases my responsibilities rather than changing them.”

In 1985, regional telecommunications company Ameritech acquired Applied Data Research for $215 million; A year later, Mr. Goetz moved to a new position as the company’s senior vice president and chief technology officer. He remained there until early 1988, when he became chief executive of Sylology, a software company.

He left that position in mid-1989 and became a consultant to software companies and venture capital firms, as well as an investor. I

Mr. Goetz was included in Mainframe Hall of Fame, which cited him as “the father of third-party software”. In 2007, he was named the computer industry’s “Unsung Innovator” by Computerworld.

In addition to Ms. Jacobs, Mr. Goetz is survived by his wife, Norma (Wiener) Goetz; another daughter, Ruth Malloy; and five grandchildren.

Mr. Goetz continued to write about software patentability and the need for patent protection for software in the 90’s. It was part of his legacy, Professor Feldman said.

“He understood how powerful players can abuse the legal system to distort innovation, and how the legal system can be used to fight back,” he said. “He was an eternal optimist – he truly believed that patents could protect genuine innovation and help society.”

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