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


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

His daughter Karen Jacobs said the cause was leukemia.

In 1968, almost a decade after he and several other partners founded the company Applied Data Research, Mr. Goetz received his patent, for data classification software for mainframes. It was major news in the industry: an article in Computerworld magazine carried the headline “First software patent issued, but full implications unknown.”

Until then, software had not been considered a patentable product and was included in huge mainframe computers such as those manufactured by IBM. Mrs. Jacobs said that her father had patented her own software so that IBM could not copy it and install it on its machines.

“In 1968, I had already been arguing about the patentability of software for about three years.” Mr. Goetz said in an oral history. interview in 2002 for the University of Minnesota. “He knew that at some point the patent office would recognize him.”

What Goetz called his “classification system” is believed to have been the first software product to be sold commercially, and his success in obtaining a patent led him to become a strong advocate of software patents. Programs that instruct computers what to do, he said, are often as patent-worthy as the machines themselves.

The issuance of Mr. Goetz’s patent “helped managers, programmers and lawyers at young software companies feel as if they were forming an industry of their own, one in which they were creating products that were potentially profitable and legally defensible as patented inventions.” ”. Gerardo Con Diazprofessor of science and technology studies at the University of California, Davis, wrote in the 2019 book “Software Rights: How Patent Law Transformed Software Development.”

Robin Feldmanprofessor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Law, said by phone: “The world we live in now, with app stores and software invented in someone’s garage, is a credit to Goetz’s vision, his scientific innovation and his obstinacy”. persistence.”

(Global software market revenue amounted to about $610 billion in 2022, according to statesmana data and business intelligence company).

Goetz and his company took another step to open the software market. In April 1969, Applied Data Research filed an antitrust lawsuit against IBM, accusing it of illegally setting a single price for its equipment and software (essentially giving away the software) and calling for it to be broken up. The lawsuit was part of a series of legal actions, brought four months apart by Applied Data Research, two other companies and the US Department of Justice.

That June, IBM agreed to the unbundling.

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

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

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

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

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

After his father’s haberdashery closed, the family moved six times to successively cheaper apartments. When Marty was 12 years old, he began delivering meat for a butcher.

He attended the elite Brooklyn Technical High School. His college education, first at Brooklyn College and then at the City College of New York, was interrupted by his Army service with the Second 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 graduating, he worked as a supervisor at AC Nielsen, analyzing radio ratings. He then responded to a newspaper ad for a programmer at Remington Rand’s Univac division, where he spent 12 weeks as an apprentice, learning to program the pioneering mainframe computer.

“I loved it,” he wrote in his 2002 memoir, “and I used to program it in my head while driving my car.”

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

“I just fell into it,” he said in the oral history. “I had never really thought about classification until the need arose within Con Edison.”

He left to work in IBM’s applied programming group in 1958, but didn’t stay long: he and his partners started Applied Data Research the following year.

The company went public in 1965 and became a leader in the software industry. Goetz was named president in 1984, after 10 years as senior vice president and head of the software products division.

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

In 1985, regional telecommunications company Ameritech acquired Applied Data Research for $215 million; A year later, Goetz took on a new role as the company’s senior vice president and chief technology officer. He remained there until early 1988, when he became CEO of Syllogy, 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.

Mr. Goetz was included in the Mainframe Hall of Fame, which cited him as the “father of third-party software.” In 2007, Computerworld named him an “unsung innovator” of the computer industry.

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

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

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

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