Martin Goetz, Who Received the First Software Patent, Dies at 93

'I knew at some point in time the patent office would recognize' computer software, he said. It happened in 1968, helping to ignite the software market.

Martin Goetz, Who Received the First Software Patent, Dies at 93

Martin Goetz joined the computer industry at its infancy, in the mid-1950s, as a programmer.


On 10 October, he died at his Brighton, Massachusetts, home. He was 93. He was 93.

Karen Jacobs, his daughter, said that leukemia was the cause.

In 1968, almost a decade after he, along with several other partners, founded the company Applied Data Research

Mr. Goetz was awarded his patent

For data-sorting for mainframes. Computerworld's article with the headline "First Patent Issued for Software; Full Implications Not Known" was a major industry event.

Software was not viewed until then as a product that could be patented and it was packaged into massive mainframes, like those manufactured by IBM. Ms. Jacobs stated that her father patented his software to prevent IBM from copying it and putting it on their machines.

By 1968, I'd been involved in the debate about patentability for software for three years.

In an oral history, Mr. Goetz stated

Interview in 2002 at the University of Minnesota I knew that the patent office was going to recognize it at some point.

It is believed that Mr. Goetz's'sorting systems' was the first commercial software product. His success in obtaining a patent made him a vocal advocate for patenting software. He said that the programs that tell computers what to do are often just as patentable as the machines themselves.

The patent issued by Mr. Goetz 'helped managers and programmers at young software companies feel like they were forming their own industry -- where they were creating products which were potentially profitable and legal defensible, as proprietary inventions.'

Gerardo Con Diaz

In the book "Software Rights: The Impact of Patent Law on Software Development", published in 2019,, a professor of Science and Technology Studies at the University of California Davis, wrote.

Karen Jacobs, his daughter, said that Mr. Goetz had patented his software so IBM couldn't copy it and use it on their machines.


US Patent 3380029

Robin Feldman

Professor at the University of California College of the Law in San Francisco said that Goetz's vision and scientific innovation, as well as his persistence, are responsible for the world we live today, which includes app stores and software created in garages.

The global software market is expected to generate revenues of approximately $610 billion by 2022.


(, a firm that provides data and business intelligence.)

Mr. Goetz took a further step in opening the software market. In April 1969, Applied Data Research sued IBM for illegally setting a price for both its software and equipment -- essentially, giving the software away for free. They also demanded their debundling. This lawsuit was one of a series of legal actions taken by Applied Data Research and two other companies, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, within four months of each other.

IBM agreed to unbundling in June.

Applied Data Research has not ceased its litigation.

The case was finally settled in August 1970

The agreement included a provision for IBM to receive Autoflow, one of the company's programs.

Ms. Jacobs stated that 'he not only got his wish, but A.D.R. A.D.R. began selling more products, and the independent software industry was opened up.

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

In 2002, he published a two-part autobiography in the Annals of the History of Computing of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. It was an amazing experience for both A.D.R. and me.

Martin Alvin Goetz, born April 22, 1930 in Brooklyn. Jacob Goetz, his father, lost his menswear store during the Great Depression. He then sold ties at street corners until he died in 1943. Rose (Friedman) Goetz worked in the store, and after the death of her husband, she also worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

The family moved to lower-priced apartment six times after his father's hatterdashery closed. Marty began delivering meat to a butcher when he was 12 years old.

He graduated from the Brooklyn Technical High School. He interrupted his college education, first at Brooklyn College, and then at City College of New York. His service in the Army's Second Armored Division was in Texas. In 1953, he received a Bachelor's Degree in Business Statistics from City College. Eight years later, he earned a Master's in Business Administration from the same institution.

He worked at A.C. Nielsen as a supervisor, analysing radio ratings. He answered an ad in the newspaper for a programmer with Remington Rand Univac, where he trained as a trainee for 12 weeks, learning to program this pioneering mainframe.

In his 2002 memoir, he writes, "I used to program it in my mind as I drove my vehicle."

He worked for four years with what was to become Sperry Rand, (Remington Rand and Sperry Corporation merged in 1955), with clients such as the pharmaceutical company Parke-Davis or the New York utility Consolidated Edison. He developed his first sorting system for Con Edison's bill-paying system.

In the oral history, he stated that he "just sort of fell into" it. I had never really thought about sorting before Con Edison needed it.

In 1958, he left to work for IBM's group of applied programming. He didn't last long. He and his partners founded Applied Data Research in the following year.

In 1965, the company became public and was a leader in software. After 10 years of serving as director and senior vice-president, Mr. Goetz became president in 1984.

I don't think my life will change much.

He told The New York Times

After his promotion. I've been managing 85 percent of the company. It's more like the promotion is just adding to my existing responsibilities, rather than changing them.

Ameritech, a regional telecommunications firm, acquired Applied Data Research in 1985 for $215,000,000. A year later, Goetz was promoted to the position of senior vice president and chief technologist. He stayed until early 1988 when he was appointed chief executive officer of Syllogy.

In mid-1989, he left his position and began working as a consultant for software companies and venture-capital firms. He also became an investor. He left that position in mid-1989 and became a consultant to software companies, venture capital firms, as well as an investor.

Mr. Goetz has been inducted into the

Mainframe Hall of Fame

Computerworld referred to him as the "father of third-party Software." Computerworld named him an "unsung innovator" of the computer industry in 2007.

Ruth Malloy, a daughter of Mr. Goetz, and five grandchildren are also left behind.

Mr. Goetz wrote about the patentability of software and the need to protect software until he was 90 years old. Professor Feldman said that this was part of Mr. Goetz's legacy.

She said that he understood how powerful actors could abuse the legal systems to distort innovation and how to use the legal system to fight back. He was a perpetual optimist. He truly believed that patents could help protect innovation and benefit society.