The study "Innovation Performance of German Software Companies" (PDF, German), commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), analyses a survey among about 500 German Software-Development Companies. Among other factors, the survey also aimed at finding the current significance of and attitude towards software patents.
More than 85% of small and medium enterprises (SME) feared software patents, such as those currently granted by patent offices throughout Europe, could hamper or even impede their work. Even those companies that had a less critical attitude towards patenting show concern that trivial patents are granted. Many pointed out that they could hardly check if they infringe patents. As a consequence there was considerable concern that innovative software products could not be brought to market at all or only at higher costs because of the burden of licensing costs.
There was some interest by SMEs to protect their software through patents in general even if they had a critical attitude towards software patents and feared patents of others. But because of the complexity and cost of patenting most SMEs ruled this option out. Big companies usually had a moderate to considerable patent portfolio but still smaller than expected by the authors of the study. Most interesting is the motivation of big companies to patent that the study mention: namely to boost market concentration and to add patents to open source patent portfolios and thus anticipate patents by companies hostile towards open source (the study mentions that the company that did this was the most outspoken advocate in favour of software patents of all companies surveyed!).
Most companies feel that their software is adequately protected by other means than patents.
Comment: it seems what little interest there is in applying for patents stems from the software patents arms race, that is from the necessity to protect against patent portfolios of others. If only the BMBF, in the past a staunch supporter of software patents, would listen…