Today technology is changing expeditiously. New technical inventions are taking place in huge number. These new inventions open new field of subject-matter for protection under Intellectual Property Law. Intellectual Property law gives an umbrella protection to new inventors. Patent provide protection for those line of process, products which are novel and are capable of proving that it involves an inventive step. USPTO grants maximum patents in a year. The paper written here advocates the invalidity of Business Method patent in Indian scenario. Business method today is capable of IP protection in countries like USA, Australia, Japan and New Zealand. India is against granting of protection to Business Method.
Definition: Business Method Patent
Business Patents are those patents which are given to business methods or business systems or like. A business method may be defined as "a method of operating any aspect of an economic enterprise". Business method patents are part of a larger family of patents known as utility patents, which protect inventions, chemical formulas, processes, and other discoveries. A business method is classified as a process, because it is not a physical object like a mechanical invention or chemical composition.
Background To Business Method Patents
Business Method Patents were not considered as a subject matter for protection under Patent Law. Earlier Business Method was considered as an abstract idea and was thus not falling under the purview of Patents. But by a decision by a Federal Court even Business Method have been granted patent protection. Section 101 of US Patent Act defines Inventions which are capable of Patent protection
A combine reading of Sections 101, 102, 103 and 112 will lead to following construction:
# Any process, machine or composition of matter may be patented if;
# It is new (Novelty Section 102), Non-obvious (Section 103) and is capable of adequate description and invention (Section 112).
Protection Under TRIPS
TRIPS also provide subject matter for patent protection. Article 27 paragraph 1 of the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Rights (TRIPS) provides that "patents shall be available for any inventions, whether products or processes, in all fields of technology, provided that they are new, involve an inventive step and are capable of industrial application..."
Further, Article 27 paragraph 2 of the TRIPS agreement permits Members to "exclude from patentability inventions, the prevention within their territory of the commercial exploitation of which is necessary to protect order public or morality, including to protect human, animal or plant life or health or to avoid serious prejudice to the environment, provided that such exclusion is not made merely because the exploitation is prohibited by their law."
Cases In Which Business Method Was Upheld
Concept of Business method patent is now a decade old. State Street case is an important decision in this regard. Further developments have taken place after this judgment.
Business Method was considered as an exception to Patent protection until 1998. The first case of this kind was filed in the year 1908. In Hotel Security case the question was whether business methods can be said to be patentable. Here the case rejected the argument of it being capable of protection and created a per se exception to business methods. It was until year 1998 that this position was accepted.
1. State Street Bank v. Signature Financial Group, Inc.
In the present case the District Court had rejected application for Business Method Patent on the said process of “hub and space”. But Later the Federal Circuit confirmed that there is no rule which prohibits the patentability of "business methods." The Court stated The judicially-created business method exception to patentability is . . . an unwarranted encumbrance to the definition of statutory subject matter in section 101 that should be discarded as error-prone, redundant, and obsolete. It merits retirement from the glossary of section 101. Patentability does not turn on whether the claimed method does "business" instead of something else, but on whether the method, viewed as a whole, meets the requirements of patentability as set forth in Sections 102, 103, and 112 of the Patent Act.
Federal Court further clarified that it was never intended that business methods should be kept out of the subject matter. Rather in earlier few cases claim was rejected due to incapability of those methods to be taken as inventions. Thus, State Street confirmed that business methods can be patented if they meet the statutory requirements of utility, novelty and non-obviousness.
2. Amazon.com Inc. v. Barnsandnoble.com
In this case one-click patent to Amazon.com was criticized by few writers on the ground of it being “unplanned mutation”. Here an injunction was granted to Barnes & Noble for not using the said feature. This case clearly reflects drawbacks that can arise in case a business patent is protected in countries which are still developing their technologies. Later part of my paper deals with disadvantage that granting a business method patent can have.
Amendments Brought After State Street Case
Now that the situation is clear with respect to business method patents in US laws, it can be said that business method are capable of granting patent protection. But in order that no ambiguity remains the USPTO publicly announced that in terms of granting protection sufficient prior art search should be undertaken.
A new classification (Class 705) was introduced for the filing of business method patents under the more generic utility patent applications: "Data processing: financial, business practice, management or cost/price determination.” Specifically, Class 705 includes sub-categories for industries such as health care, insurance, electronic shopping, inventory management, accounting, and finance.
Amendment In Title 35
Section 100 Title 35, United States Code, was amended to provide for improvements in the quality of patents on certain inventions. Thus, ‘Business Method Patent Improvement Act of 2000’’was passed. The term business method patent has been defined under the Act. What is surprising is the fact that under the definition any “technique used in Athletics” can also be qualified as a Business Method Patent.
For providing better uniformity in the system Interim Guidelines were published for Examination of Patent Applications for Patent Subject Matter Eligibility on October 26, 2005