US, EPO and UK approaches to patenting business methods
Produced in partnership with William Nixon of Millen, White, Zelano & Branigan P.C. and Dr Julian M Potter of WP Thompson
US, EPO and UK approaches to patenting business methods

The following IP guidance note Produced in partnership with William Nixon of Millen, White, Zelano & Branigan P.C. and Dr Julian M Potter of WP Thompson provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • US, EPO and UK approaches to patenting business methods
  • General
  • UK approach to patenting business method inventions
  • The Aerotel test
  • UK courts’ practical application of the 'as such' test
  • Approach of the UK Intellectual Property Office
  • European Patent Office approach to business method inventions
  • EPO approach to inventive step—the 'problem and solution approach'
  • US approach to patenting business method inventions
  • Action points when considering the protection of a business method invention

General

Traditionally, the patent system was solely concerned with the protection of technical inventions such as the development of new physical apparatus and technical processes. However with the increasing power of computers and the rise of the Internet, business innovation in the form of developments in e-commerce and new business methods has increasingly come to the fore. The patent system has developed to deal with such innovation. However, the acceptance of such innovations into the patent system has not been uniform and there is considerable divergence between different jurisdictions’ approaches to the extent to which patent protection can be obtained for business innovations.

Broadly, business innovations can be categorised into the following three categories:

  1. purely abstract business developments not requiring the presence of any particular apparatus or equipment. An example of such an innovation would be a structure for a novel bond or derivative

  2. business innovations which can only be implemented using particular physical apparatus and which give rise only to business benefits. Typical examples of this would include many computer based e-commerce developments in which the particular physical apparatus is a specially programmed computer

  3. business innovations which require physical apparatus to be implemented which give rise to both technical benefits and business benefits. An example of such a system would be an e-commerce system which both facilitated a novel