Can a Process Be Patented?
A process patent is a type of utility patent that covers methods for changing the functionality or characteristics a material during a specific use. The idea is basically to protect a series of steps used to perform a function or accomplish a result.
To patent a process, you need a utility patent. Utility patents are be used to protect inventions, processes and machines as well as articles of manufacture.
In this article, you’ll learn more about the two main requirements that must be met for a process to be patentable: Inventiveness and Obviousness. This information will help you get started if you’re considering pursuing a patent application for your business method. This article also discusses recent patent cases and how to determine whether your business method can be patented.
Whether a business method can be patented
Getting a business method patent can cost several thousand dollars, depending on the complexity of the examination process and whether you hire a lawyer. The process itself can take two to three years, but you can expect to pay a lot less if you do it yourself. Once you have your patent, you must pay maintenance fees to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which can be high.
Although business methods are not technically a physical object, they do qualify for patent protection if they meet certain criteria. These requirements are similar to those for physical objects. Businesses that are online have found this patent particularly useful, as it can help them compete with large, traditional businesses. By patenting a process, the owner can prevent competitors from using their method or sell it for a fee. These types of patents generally do not last a long time and are not eligible for renewal.
As an example, Amazon came up with a way to expedite the process of placing an order online. This system allowed repeat customers to skip completing address entry forms and accessing account information. It greatly improved the shopping experience for many consumers. The patent for Amazon’s “1-Click” method was granted in 1999. Businesses can obtain a business method patent if they can tie it to a machine or transform an article. The costs associated with patenting business methods should be kept in mind as they seek to patent their ideas.
A patent for a business method is not available in Europe, but it may change in the future. In the meantime, businesses may continue to use the patent if it has a valid business method. There are two ways a patent owner can protect his or her invention: First, they can try to obtain an injunction if someone else is infringing on their patent. Second, the patent owner can seek damages to stop the infringement.
However, there are several restrictions on whether a business method can be patented. Firstly, it must be a human creation, which means that it cannot be a law or abstract idea. Secondly, the method must be useful. The method must not have been used publicly by anyone else before its patent holder applied. Third, the method must be functional. Any tangible result, whether it is a product or a service, will satisfy this requirement.
Inventive solution requirement for a patented process
In order to be eligible for patent protection, a patented process or product must meet the requirements for an inventive solution. An inventive solution must be a new solution to a problem. This solution must not be obvious to a manufacturer. An example of an inventive solution could be screwing swing tubes together. This is a new way to make swings and is a new method of attachment. Using other methods of attaching swing tubes would not qualify as an inventive solution, as it is an obvious solution to the manufacturer.
Obviousness requirement for a patented process
To qualify for patent protection, an invention must also be non-obvious, or at least not obvious to a Person Having Ordinary Skill in the Art (POSITA). For instance, if a creation is a logical embodiment of previous knowledge, it will not be patented. POSITA is a typical scientist or engineer in a related field. As a result, it must be more than a logical increment improvement of the prior art to qualify for patent protection.
When determining whether an invention is obvious, the USPTO looks at secondary factors as well. For example, a commercial success could indicate that no similar inventions were on the market before the invention. Likewise, a significant period of time may pass between the emergence of the relevant prior art and the filing of the patent application. Therefore, if an invention is based on the invention solving a long-standing problem, it could be considered “obvious” if it is obvious to the average car parts engineer.
If a patent applicant is denied a patent because it is unlikely to be obvious to a layperson, he or she must present objective evidence to convince the Patent Office that the claimed features do not have an equivalent in the prior art. This evidence can include long-felt needs, commercial success, and unexpected results. The Office will weigh each piece of evidence on a case-by-case basis.
To prove that a patented process is not obvious, the inventor must conduct a thorough search for prior art. This search should reveal the closest prior art, which may be able to tell the examiner a story of inventiveness and avoidance of prior art. The story can include the nature of the problem the inventor was addressing, how the invention solves that problem, and how it improves upon prior efforts.
If a product or process is not obvious to an ordinary person, it does not qualify as a new invention. To qualify as a novel invention, the invention must be new and useful. It must also serve some purpose. Without such criteria, a patented invention is useless. A time machine with 10 speeds cannot be patented, and a new drug without any effect will be barred from being patented.
In assessing the novelty and uniqueness of a patented process, the examiner considers all prior art that is available in the field. Patent examiners can use multiple pieces of prior art, arguing that the combination of the two was obvious. If the claims have a significant difference from the prior art, they are obvious, even if they are trivial modifications. If the differences are too great, they may not qualify as novel.
Before a new product or process is patented, it must be obvious to an ordinary person in the field. Generally, the invention must be new compared to the prior art, or it cannot be patented. The patent examiner evaluates the novelty of the product or process by comparing it to the prior art, or the public disclosure of the process. A claim must be both novel and inventive, and it must satisfy both criteria to be granted a patent.
Chances of Success
In order to qualify for patent protection, a business method must be new, inventive, and useful to a specific person. When this is not complied with, a patent application for a business method can be rejected. For example, in the case of Bilski v. Kappos, 561 U.S. 593 (2010) it was held that a method of hedging risks is not patentable.
Additionally, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected a significant number of business method patent applications since 2014 after the US Supreme Court, in the case of Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, 573 U.S. 208 (2014) ruled that a patent directed to risk hedging, although implemented on a computer, is an abstract idea that is not patentable. The effect of the decision almost guarantees that business methods cannot be patented. Other lower court decisions have confirmed this ruling and this has led to a sharp decline in patent applications for business methods.
In conclusion, you can still patent a process by preparing a utility patent application, filing it with the USPTO, and paying the patenting fees to the USPTO. The success of the application will largely depend on proving that the method is inventive and non-obvious. You may enlist the services of a patent attorney to assist you with preparing, filing, and prosecuting your patent application.