If your business method ranges from high-tech automation systems to a special way to hold a golf club or exercise a cat, you may qualify for a U.S. patent. Novel, non-obvious and useful methods for doing business may be protected.
The Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit have confirmed in the last few years that a "business method" can be patented if the method is useful to bring about a tangible result. Although the business method may be tied to the use of a computer or other automated system, a business method may merely comprise a set of steps performed by humans in the course of ordinary business. Accordingly, while many recently issued business method patents are directed to methods for conducting on-line business transactions, other patents relate to more mundane methods, such as janitorial training.
Some examples of recently issued low-tech business method patents include U.S. Patent Nos. 5,851,117 (janitorial training methods); 5,965,809 (female support garment size determination method); 5,616,089 (method for holding a golf club when putting); and, 5,443,036 (method for exercising a cat using a hand-held laser pointer).
Practically any business method may, therefore, be appropriate subject matter for a patent. However, in order to patent the business method, the method must be new and not obvious in view of prior known business methods. The prior known business methods must be known by the public, having either been published or common knowledge.
In order to determine whether your business method may be patentable or to discuss other options for protecting your business, contact Stephen J. Weyer, Stites & Harbison's Alexandria office at 703/837-3908 or firstname.lastname@example.org.