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Applying for a business method patent

Your company has developed an operational innovation that gives your company the edge it needs. The last thing you want is for your competitors to start using the method your business has invested in producing.

One way to safeguard a business method is to patent it. Because getting USPTO to approve a business method has become increasingly complicated and difficult, it is important to make sure your application gets everything right.

Basic requirements

Generally, the law considers that one cannot patent an abstract idea. Thus, the method must consist of more than just a general approach. It needs to contain specific steps that yield tangible, quantifiable results.

The method must also be new. When a method uses elements that may be someone else's intellectual property or be a matter of common knowledge, there can be complex issues in determining patentability. The method also cannot be something anyone with a normal level of business knowledge could come up with.

A tougher standard

Additionally, courts have ruled that a business method must involve equipment, technology or some kind of hardware. Generally, just putting the method on a computer or the internet does not suffice to meet this requirement. If your method includes computer implementation, your description will need to contain details to convince USPTO that this implementation plays an active role in using the method rather than basically acting as storage.

Important considerations

In addition to the regular advice for patent applications in general, a business method application can take some additional thought and work. Include as much technical information as possible, especially when describing the role of the software or hardware in implementing the method.

Identify all components necessary to execute the method and describe in detail what each one of them does. Today, courts tend to adopt a restrictive approach that disallows an abstract idea implemented via computer. They want to see an inventive concept, which can be hard to define, but your best chance is to emphasize the elements of real-world utility together with innovation.

You also need to state specifically what the method accomplishes. The more you can quantify its results, the better your chance of success.

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