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Patenting a Business Method

Just about everyone in the United States has been on – or at least seen – the web.  Internet marketing, although it’s only been around for around twenty years, seems like it’s been around for much longer than that.  The internet bubble has burst, and companies that are selling on the web have settled down and have grown their reputations.  Amazon, iTunes, and many other similar companies have gone through their adolescence and have established themselves as businesses ready for the long haul.  What many people don’t know about these companies is that they have patents related to their simple web applications.  Amazon’s one-click ordering method is unprecedented and something that many other web businesses admire and aspire to.  Even online prescription refilling is a rather new and fascinating mechanism.  These are well-protected trade secrets, but there’s no telling if a disgruntled employee or a computer hacker could get hold of the programming behind the method.  That’s where patents come in.

Many think that a patent can only be granted to machinery.  The cotton gin, the television and the cellular phone all have been patented.  However, there are many things that can be patented, including business methods like the ones listed above.  Companies that develop these methods can own the exclusive intellectual property rights for them for 17 years.  That may not seem like a very long time, but in today’s rapidly changing world, new technologies are being developed all the time that would make the methods seem retro in comparison.  Although business methods seem to be vastly different from machines, they do fall under the same classification in the universe of patenting: a utility patent is what the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will grant an inventor that develops them.  In general, both a machine and a business method complete a utility, so in essence, they’re very similar.  A key difference between the device-related patent and the business method-related patent is that the business method could only be considered exclusive intellectual property after 1998.

Entrepreneurs today are often looking to the web for marketing an idea.  They may have a new software application or feature that they’d like to unveil to the public, and plan to do so on the internet.  When they go about it, they must be careful that it doesn’t get copied.  Obtaining a utility patent for their business method is the best way to protect their idea.  The utility patent can be used for a business method in two ways: a) to allow a business method to effectively and safely compete against a possibly inferior program; and b) to protect a business method from infringing on someone else’s discovery.  You’ll notice that on the internet there are many ways of displaying ads.  Two advertising business methods that are always in competition with each other are pop-up advertising and scroll-over advertising.  Although both types of business methods may be generally accomplishing the same thing, they are fundamentally different in their methods and the patent owners for either one won’t have to sue for intellectual property infringement.

Like any other invention, a business method can get a patent if the following conditions are true:
1. The business method must be original.  That means it cannot significantly resemble any other technology that has been patented in the past.  Paradigms can be copied, but there must be enhancements included in the new business method.
2. The business method must be useful.  There isn’t a purpose to granting a patent on an item that won’t be thought of again.  For example, you may develop a program that displays pictures of toasters all over your screen, but what would the point of protecting that program be?
3. The business method must be non-obvious.  Non-obvious is a patent buzzword that means that a person who might have some general knowledge about the discovery wouldn’t be easily able to come up with the idea themselves.
4. The business method must be realistic.  All existing laws of nature must be followed.  This may seem a bit strange, but the USPTO cannot issue a patent if there’s no regulation that goes along with the science behind it: the patent would be nearly impossible to enforce.

Before the application for a business patent can be approved, fees must be paid and an examination of the marketplace must be conducted to see if the business method already exists.  Once it’s finished, the patent can be granted and protect a business method.



Leon Edward is the blog owner and webmaster of  http://www.HomeBusinessIT.com where you'll find internet business ideas and home business management info , legitimate online business reviewed , home business management and marketing information where you can even get step by step  affiliate marketing training to start your own affiliate marketing online business

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