Date of Award

Fall 12-17-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Software Engineering


Software Engineering and Game Design and Development

First Advisor

Dr. Paola Spoletini

Second Advisor

Dr. Christopher Cornelison

Third Advisor

Dr. Hassan Pournaghshband


Intellectual property, commonly known as IP, is complex. The four main types of software IP, which is what this thesis will focus on, are patents, trade secrets, trademarks, and copyright. Patents, trade secrets, and copyrights were all studied by this thesis. Software IP is unique in that it can by copyrighted. Different IP owners, which can be businesses of different types, individuals, and universities, often have different strategies as to how to use their IP portfolio. This thesis studies differences in IP usage between these entities specifically in the field of software. Large and small software companies were analyzed specifically. This thesis attempted to find the differences in computing IP strategies between different stakeholders and explain these differences in as comprehensive a manner as possible. To find answers to the issues at hand, a systematic literature review was performed. A systematic literature review (SLR) is a research method where multiple peer-reviewed articles are gathered and analyzed in a predetermined way. Usually SLRs do not have limits on the number of considered papers. In this work, we conducted a preliminary analysis and focused on 30 peer-reviewed articles. Ten articles from Software Engineering, Economics, and Law were all reviewed. This was necessary because this research lies at the intersection of all three of these disciplines. The results were tabulated and analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively. Our initial analysis shows that there are considerable differences in how different IP holders handle their IP. Among these differences, it was found that large companies are more likely to sell patents to small companies. Furthermore, small businesses often do not honor IP contractual agreements at first and then hope they do not get sued because they are too small to warrant the litigation costs. The SLR research indicated, that with respect to IP, economists agree about copyright and trade secrets for practicing software entities. In almost all instances, economists stated that trade secret techniques, when combined with copyrighting, are superior to patenting. The research also showed that economists were usually in favor of open-source software. The exact findings of the economists will be expanded on further in this paper. 3 In addition to the findings recorded, various themes found throughout the research literature were cataloged and analyzed. The themes were then evaluated in what was called a "thematic analysis". These differences are discussed in detail in this thesis.