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Christian Science Monitor: The war over patents on the Web: Who owns an idea?

Jul 29, 2000, 23:43 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Samar Farah)

"Until recently, case law put business methods outside the realm of machines, man-made products, compositions of matter, and processing methods - the four general areas of inventions patentable under US code. The question is one of semantics: Is a business method an invention and patentable, or is it an idea and therefore unpatentable?"

"A 1998 case in the US Court of Appeals, State Street Bank & Trust Co. v. Signature Financial Group, flatly concluded that there were no statutory grounds for opposing business-method patents. Coupled with the rise of e-commerce, this unleashed a flurry of applications. In 1997, the office granted 39 patents for business methods on the Internet. In 1999, there were 301 such grants."

"To qualify for a patent, an invention must be new, useful, and nonobvious. Programmers, especially, say that maverick entrepreneurs and bullish company leaders are morphing old practices onto the Net and peddling them as novel. "Transforming data around in a way people did before, except doing it on the Internet, is always obvious," says Richard Stallman, a founder of the GNU/Linux free operating system."

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