Patentability of Business Methods: A Guide for Business Owners

January 9, 2024

Navigating the labyrinth of patents can be intimidating, particularly those related to business methods. Yet, understanding this process is crucial for business owners looking to safeguard their unique methodologies. Patented business methods help to protect your business by providing a competitive edge.

Understanding Business Method Patents

A business method process must be original, useful, non-obvious, and create a tangible result to be patentable. It must also involve a specific application of technology to qualify for a patent. The technology must be intrinsic to the method, not merely an add-on, and typically relates to a technical advancement or to overcoming technical challenges related to the process. It should enhance or change the way the business operates, leading to improved resource efficiency, cost-effectiveness, or other tangible benefits.  These requirements are generally described as a “technical solution to a technical problem.” On the other hand, abstract ideas implemented using generic computer functions do not qualify for patent protection.

One notable example of a patented business method is Amazon’s “1-Click” ordering system. This system allows customers to make online purchases with a single mouse click, significantly simplifying the online buying process. The Amazon process leverages technology to store billing and shipping information, so the user does not need to enter it every time they make a purchase. The “1-Click” patent demonstrates how a unique, tech-integrated business method can be protected, setting a benchmark for innovation in e-commerce.

The patentability of Amazon’s system lies in a specific technological application that changed how e-commerce operates, making it a prime candidate for a business method patent. It’s not an abstract idea but a concrete implementation that provided a technical solution to a technical problem of a business process –precisely what a business method patent aims to protect.

Criteria for Patenting Your Business Method

To secure a patent for your business method, you must meet four key criteria. First, your business method needs to be patentable subject matter. It can’t merely be an abstract concept.  In many cases, this requirement is met by the technical challenges overcome by the process or other technical advancements related to the process.  

Second, your business method needs to be useful, though this requirement is relatively easy to satisfy. Essentially, your method should yield a tangible outcome.

The final two requirements, novelty and non-obviousness, are a bit more intricate. A novel business method must be distinct from any prior methods.  Additionally, while it is preferable that the invention has not been publicly disclosed before filing a patent application, an exception could apply in the U.S. if you disclosed the method less than a year before the application filing date. However, many foreign countries do not allow such an exception. Public exposure can occur through public use or if the method has been detailed in a publication prior to filing the patent application. 

To be non-obvious, the invention should create a new or unexpected result for someone versed in the relevant field. This requirement is often gauged by examining if a professional in the field would perceive your method as a natural progression of existing methods. Your method should be more than just the next logical step – it should be a leap forward, surprising those who know the field well.

Why Patent Your Business Method?

Patenting provides protection against infringement, providing the right for you to prevent others from using your invention. It’s like building a legal fortress around your business method. With a patent in place, you may take legal action if someone tries to use your method without permission. It’s not just about having the law on your side.  It’s about ensuring your hard work and innovation aren’t exploited by others.

A patent can give you a competitive edge. In the fiercely competitive world of business, every advantage counts. A patented method sets you apart, showcasing your innovation and solidifying your position in the market. It tells your competitors, “I’ve got something unique here” and makes your business more attractive to investors and customers alike.

A patent also opens up the potential for licensing or selling. Think of your patent as an asset, something tangible you can monetize. You can license your method to others, earning royalties in the process. Alternatively, you could sell the patent outright, turning your innovative idea into a lump sum payment.

Secure Your Innovation Today

Ready to patent your business method? It’s time to act. Contact the experienced patent team at Johnson, Marcou, Isaacs & Nix, LLC. We are committed to protecting your intellectual property. With us, your innovation isn’t just an idea – it’s an asset, a strategy, a competitive advantage. Reach out today and let us help you secure the patent your business method deserves.