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Board loosens business method patent requirementsOctober 21, 2005

Applications for patenting business methods and business systems have been treated a little differently than other types of patent applications by the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). A recent decision by the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences has removed one of the obstacles, opening the door for more possibilities in the area of business methods and systems patentsCongress and the courts recognize the existence of business method patents and grant eligibility for patent protection if other requirements for patenting are met. Over the last few years, the USPTO, perhaps reacting to political pressures, has made it increasingly more difficult to obtain protection regarding business methods and business systems. Even when an idea was deemed ‘novel and nonobvious’ and met all other requirements, the USPTO strongly resisted the patenting of business methods and systems and limited the amount of protection available.One of those obstacles was a requirement that patentable business methods and business systems had to be related to ‘a technological art.’ This technological art requirement typically meant that methods and systems for doing business needed to be closely tied to computers. For example the methods would have to be implemented by software or otherwise use computers. Thus, it was difficult to protect a business method that could be performed using pencil and paper.Just recently, the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences removed the technological arts requirement. In Ex parte Lundgren, Appeal No. 2003-2088 (BPAI 2005) the Board cited J.E.M. Ag Supply, Inc. v. Pioneer Hybrid Int’l, Inc., 534 U.S. 124 (2001), a case successfully argued to the U.S. Supreme Court by MVS’s Edmund J. Sease, and other authority to make the determination that there is no basis for the ‘technological arts’ requirement.It is possible that the USPTO will appeal this decision, or create other obstacles to obtaining business method patents. Meanwhile this decision is good news for anyone who seeks patent protection on business methods or systems.

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