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RFC Express - New IP Lawsuits

Business Method Patents or Just Methods of Business -- A Quantitative View of the Landscape

By Lindsey Gilroy and Perry Bassett and Scott Oldach of Patent Board™

The Supreme Court heard arguments in November 2009 on a case that may determine the future of a small but potent set of patents already granted by the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), as well as a mass of pending applications for Business Method patents. The topic of business method patents is one that has sparked a great deal of controversy among academics, businesses, and the USPTO itself. While some businesses laud the ability to patent a method of doing business, others decry the patent protection as a constriction on an institution's ability to get business done. Accenture's Intellectual Property (IP) director Wayne Sobon asks "Why shouldn't new techniques for managing organizations be entitled to patent protection?" On the other hand, IBM's former in-house IP counsel David Kappos (now head of the USPTO) told BusinessWeek in 2008 that "you're creating a new 20-year monopoly for no good reason." Part of the issue is principle, while another part is definition. The definition of an acceptable business method patent has changed drastically since their introduction in the 1990s and with each succeeding definition, new questions about the legitimacy of business method patents arise as well. Many are looking to the Supreme Court's expected ruling in May 2010 to decide this issue once and for all.

Perhaps the most well-known Business Met...

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