Scholars, practitioners, and even popular media spilled much ink over business method patents in the late 1990s, eager to discuss the shift in jurisprudence that enabled patent holders to enforce business method patents for the first time. Since that initial period of excitement--during which businesses filed record numbers of applications for business method patents, and numerous articles tracing the doctrinal shift were published--commentators have written little on the topic. Various patent holders, however, have since litigated business method patent claims. During these first few years after judicial endorsement of business method patents, such litigation has focused on the scope of broadly worded patents. Early court decisions did little to provide guidance, but several Federal Circuit decisions have suggested interpretive principles, and recent District Court applications of these appellate decisions indicate that a uniform approach to business method patent claim construction is taking shape. It is time to revisit business method patent jurisprudence. This article draws together recent court rulings on business method patent claims to chart the early development of this body of law. Specifically, this article will discuss: (1) policies that support business method patents generally, and why businesses prefer patents over other forms of intellectual property when seeking to protect their economic interests in new business methods; (2) the history and ultimate demise of the business method exception to patentable subject matter; and (3) how recent court decisions affect current litigation to determine the scope of broadly worded business method patents.
Nicholas A. Smith,
Business Method Patents and their Limits: Justifications, History, and the Emergence of a Claim Construction Jurisprudence,
Mich. Telecomm. & Tech. L. Rev.
Available at: http://repository.law.umich.edu/mttlr/vol9/iss1/5