Throughout the course of your business, you may have developed unique practices for carrying out your work which have resulted in a new method for doing business. Innovative new business methods may be patentable. Why should companies patent a business method?
Is Your Business Method Patentable Subject Matter?
Like with patenting physical inventions, to be able to patent a business method, the business method must be new, non-obvious, and useful in that the method works and is capable of a practical application. Generally speaking, to be considered new, the claimed invention must not be the same as existing inventions or methods, and it must not have been disclosed publicly.
For example, a business method that includes a physical aspect, such as a computer, could be patentable.
Definition of a Business Method Patent
The USPTO’s Business Methods is a set of categories in Technology Center that award patents for Data Processing: Financial, Business Practice, Management, or Cost/Pricing Determination. A Business method patent is known as a utility patent.
Public Disclosure of a Business Method
Public disclosure includes your own public use of your business method or you describing your business method in a paper or publication that was published before the date of filing a patent application (subject to any applicable grace periods). To be considered non-obvious or inventive, your business method must be non-obvious for someone of ordinary skill in the art to make and use.
If your business method is a natural progression from a previous business method, it may be considered obvious under patent law. Your method can be an improvement to previous methods, but must still be non-obvious when it is compared to the previous method. To be considered more than a mere abstract idea, your business method may need to produce a tangible result.
If you are applying for your business method patent in Canada and your method involves use of a computer, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office published a practice notice stating that for computer-implemented inventions it will need to be determined if the computer is a part of the invention by cooperating with the invention’s other elements.
Benefits of Patenting a Business Method
Patents protect your invention, including methods and processes, from being used by others, generally for up to 20 years from the date of application in each country the patent is granted in. By patenting business methods that meet the criteria of patentable subject matter, your business will be able to prevent competitors from making, using, or selling your patented method without your permission. If you are marketing your business method, you may also use “patent pending” after filing a patent application and prior to a patent being granted.
Patents Offer Protection from Competitors
If your competitors use your patented business method, you can pursue legal action against them for infringing upon your patent rights. Not only does commencing legal action against infringing competitors allow for receiving monetary payments by way of settlement amounts or damages awarded at trial, but it may also result in an injunction against the infringer to prevent the infringer from continuing, or resuming, use of your patented business method.
Patents Increase Value of Your Business
Once a patent has been granted, your patented business method is legally protected from others using the method in the countries that the patent was granted in. Owning exclusive rights to make, use and sell the patented business method will set your business apart from competitors, thereby creating new opportunities for obtaining customers and investors. As well, patenting your business methods may allow better opportunities to license the method to others for a licensing fee thereby providing possible new revenue streams.
Patents Can Allow for Future Business Growth
Once your business has been granted a patent for a business method, you may be able to leverage the granted patent when looking for new business or investors for new projects. Your granted patent is a valuable asset for your business. Besides the monetary value it brings, the patent can be used to show potential investors your success and innovation on previous projects and establish your business in a specific area.
Applying for a Patent for Your Business Method
If you have determined that your business has a potentially patentable business method, your business may apply for a patent to ensure it can receive the benefits a granted business method patent offers. If applying for a patent in the United States, your business will need to file a utility patent application in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
If you are applying for a patent in Canada, your business will need to file a patent application in the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. Both applications will require a description of how to make and use your business method as well as patent claims setting out the boundaries of the exclusive rights to the invention that you are claiming.
On average it takes about two years from the date of filing in the United States and about two and a half years from the date of requesting examination in Canada to obtain a patent. However, the amount of time it takes in each particular application is subject to the decisions you make as the applicant at the time of and after filing the application as described further in this article on how long it takes to get a patent.
Patent a Business Method
You may have created unique procedures for carrying out your work during the course of your firm, resulting in a new way of conducting business. By patenting your business method, you are creating new opportunities to increase your business’s value, grow your business, and protect your business method from being used by your competitors. New business processes that are innovative and novel may be patented.
Author Bio: Christopher Heer is the owner and founder of Heer Law. He is an intellectual property lawyer, registered patent agent, registered trademark agent, and is also certified as a specialist in intellectual property law (patent) by the Law Society of Ontario. He believes that intellectual property rights add tremendous value to businesses by enabling them to raise capital, build asset value, and grow faster under the protection that these exclusive rights give them.