Software product line engineering (SPLE) is an emerging paradigm for the development of a family of products based on customization and reuse of artifacts. Several advantages such as reduction of time-to-market, improved product quality and reuse could be achieved by employing software product line engineering. Therefore, this is useful for the industrial sector developing product lines and is a fertile area for patents. Variability management, which enables customization and reuse, is the central part of software product line engineering. This paper provides a review of existing patents in the field of variability management. Particular patents include, feature-oriented approaches for variability management, variability at the level of components and source code, approaches for the identification and analysis of variability and rationale-based variability. The review is based on criteria qualifying the identification, instantiation and evolution of variability. Based on this review, a vision is provided on future patents/approaches in the area of software product line engineering.
Keywords: Software and systems engineering, software product line engineering, variability management, requirements engineering, component-based software development, change management, rationale management
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