Is A Business Method Patentable?
Updated: Jun 17
Business methods can relate to business models that are an enormous source of revenue to companies, as well as an important part of the consumer experience. However, is patent protection appropriate for a #businessmethod? Is it even patentable?
Below, you will find a letter sent by a patent attorney to an entrepreneur who wants to patent his business method.
Thank you for sharing your business method with me. I can see that your IT business method has the potential to be the next trending app, especially for people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and I believe it might light up the darkness during this time.
Would you like to carry out the business method through an online website where people can find their business partners? Users could share a short introduction on the website, while others could find a business partner based on such introduction. Let me illustrate this with an example; see whether I am right about your idea.
Somebody shares a short introduction about designing nylon clothes. The post describes the excellence of nylon as a clothing material. Based on the hashtags or keywords in the article, a fabric trader and/or clothing retailer could easily find, let's say, Kevin (the guy who posted the intro). Kevin turns out to be also an immaculate designer, so then the three could collaborate and start a business together. As you can see, the introduction might be enough to find your partner and start a business, so people who share the same intention can find each other. However, despite the wonderful idea, you cannot write a patent claim merely based on an #abstractidea. No matter how technical this sounds, it looks exactly like a business method for a patent attorney.
Business method patents have been under discussion in the US for a while, alongside the USPTO guideline, which says that a business process should bring about a concrete and tangible result. Two decisions, #Bilski v. Kappos and #Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, have rendered that an abstract idea is not eligible for patent protection. Therefore, patent attorneys need to include technical features in your patent application.
Likewise, in Europe, T 641/00 decision takes a similar stand: the features of a claim must contribute to the invention's technical character. Even China, which is very welcoming to business method patents, nonetheless requires a technical feature. The above decisions suggest that inventors must indicate the technical feature they use to operate their #businessmethod, rather than merely claiming an abstract idea. Hence, we must indicate the front end and the back-end module to qualify as a software patent. Since you limit the technical feature in a claim after the patent claim is published, you could encounter one problem where competitors may learn about your business method, change the technical features, design around it, and duplicate it. Therefore, it's feasible for giant companies to create a better version of your idea.
Let me know if you have further questions and I hope to see you next time.
Your friend, Conrading