The Ethical and Legal Implications of Information Systems

In this chapter, you will learn how the ubiquity of information systems today compels us to act ethically and legally. As you read, consider the sorts of ethical questions that we must ask ourselves now that did not exist before. How does this affect you personally?


Obtaining Patent Protection

Unlike copyright, a patent is not automatically granted when someone has an interesting idea and writes it down. In most countries a patent application must be submitted to a government patent office. A patent will only be granted if the invention or process being submitted meets certain conditions.

  • Must be original. The invention being submitted must not have been submitted before.
  • Must be non-obvious. You cannot patent something that anyone could think of. For example, you could not put a pencil on a chair and try to get a patent for a pencil-holding chair.
  • Must be useful. The invention being submitted must serve some purpose or have some use that would be desired.

The job of the patent office is to review patent applications to ensure that the item being submitted meets these requirements. This is not an easy job. In 2017 the US Patent Office granted 318,849 patents, an increase of 5.2% over 2016. The current backlog for a patent approval is 15.6 months. Information Technology firms have apply for a significant number of patents each year. Here are the top five I.T. firms in terms of patent applications filed since 2009. The percents indicate the percent of total I.T. patents filed since 2009. Notice that over half of patent filings come from just these five corporations.

  • International Business Machines (IBM) 21.6%
  • Microsoft Corporation 14.2%
  • AT & T, Inc. 7.1%
  • Alphabet (Google), Inc. 5.0%
  • Sony Corporation 4.7%

You might have noticed that Apple is not in the top five listing. Microsoft holds the lead in Artificial Intelligence (AI) patents.