By now I've worked on hundreds of patent applications... I've written about mundane inventions like beach towel weights to sophisticated inventions like treatment for cancer, and everything in between. If you were to ask me what type of inventions are my least favorite to work on, I'd tell you, "business methods" without missing a beat.
I say business methods for a couple of reasons. First, these methods often sound complicated, but the result is always the same: make more money by moving money around. There are many ways to move money around, and it's such an abstract concept to transfer money from one account to another. Nothing really changes when money is transferred. Sure, you see the numbers in different accounts change. But that's all it is. Numbers.
Second, it's usually hard to make diagrams for these types of methods. I often either get a really complicated diagram that I have to decipher; or I don't get a diagram and I have to figure out a way to summarize the invention in a figure or two.
Third, and I sort of touched on this in my first reason, business methods are usually pretty abstract. Business methods ARE patentable, but under certain conditions. (Thanks State Street.) For one thing, business methods must accomplish some practical application. That is, the business method being patented must produce useful, concrete, and tangible result. This means, as I said above, the business method cannot just be a simple algorithm.
This leads me to my next point: Business methods generally implement some sort of a computer system. This is where it gets really dicey because you have to clearly specify what the computer system does when it performs the process required by the business method. If the computer system is simply solving a series of algorithm, then this business method is likely not going to be successfully registered. Also, if any type of a computer system can be used to solve the same series of algorithm, then the chances are lower.
So you see, business methods are quite complicated. It can certainly be patented, but in my experience, it's been the toughest type of patent application to prosecute.
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