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Business Method Patents in the US and Europe – Diverging Policies and their Effect on Competition

Swedborg, Siri LU (2013) JURM02 20131
Department of Law
Abstract
The patentability of business methods has been debated over a long period of time, nevertheless the exact requirements for a business method to be patent eligible and their interpretation remain unclear both in the US and Europe.
Although the patent eligibility of business methods has not been an obvious matter in the US, the US courts and the US patent office has chosen to adopt a quite liberal stance towards this type of patents. The chief concern of the US courts has been to device a standard that will allow the patenting of business methods without granting a patent on the abstract idea itself. Many different approaches have been debated in case law but one of the most prominent standards is the machine-or-transformation test. Hence... (More)
The patentability of business methods has been debated over a long period of time, nevertheless the exact requirements for a business method to be patent eligible and their interpretation remain unclear both in the US and Europe.
Although the patent eligibility of business methods has not been an obvious matter in the US, the US courts and the US patent office has chosen to adopt a quite liberal stance towards this type of patents. The chief concern of the US courts has been to device a standard that will allow the patenting of business methods without granting a patent on the abstract idea itself. Many different approaches have been debated in case law but one of the most prominent standards is the machine-or-transformation test. Hence the connection to a particular machine, or the transformation of an object into a different state or thing, has been two of the main preconditions discussed in US case law in regards to business methods.
Even though the standards applied in Europe to determine the patent eligibility of business methods have varied slightly, the term ”technical” has always been central. The current test to assess the patentability of business methods is often referred to as the ”any-hardware approach”. Despite the fact that this standard has relaxed the requirement for a subject matter to be regarded as an invention, the precondition of inventive step, that can only be judged on the basis of the technical features of an invention, is still a great obstacle to patenting business methods in Europe. Hence, the EPO applies a more stringent policy, in relation to the regime implemented in the US, and the fundamentally different starting points of the US and European patent systems make them difficult to compare.
The impact that the diverging regimes regarding business method patents implemented in the US and Europe have on competition is an important matter to discuss. The main motivation for creating a patent system, and thereby restricting competition, is to further innovation. The notion is that greater inventiveness will benefit society in several ways and that the special characteristics of knowledge compel the government to intervene on the market, incurring certain costs. One of the great benefits of the patent system is the possibility to trade knowledge through e.g. licensing agreements. However, there may be other circumstances to consider than the traditional economic rationales when discussing the positive and negative effects that patents may have on competition. The quality of patents is a widely debated matter, especially in connection with business method patents which are often referred to as weak patents. Investigating the welfare implications of licensing weak patents is only one way to discuss some of the possible effects on competition that the diverging policies applied in the US and Europe concerning business method patents might produce. (Less)
Abstract (Swedish)
Affärsmetoders patenterbarhet har diskuteras under en lång tid, dock är de exakta kraven för att en affärsmetod ska anses patenterbar och dessas tolkning inte tillräckligt klarlagda, varken i USA eller i Europa.
Även om patenterbarheten av affärsmetoder inte har varit en okomplicerad fråga i USA, har både de amerikanska domstolarna och det amerikanska patentkontoret uppvisat en förhållandevis liberal inställning till denna typ av patent. Det huvudsakliga spörsmålet i amerikansk rättspraxis har varit att hitta en metod som tillåter patentering av affärsmetoder men som ändå hindrar att patent på abstrakta idéer utfärdas. Många olika tillvägagångssätt för att uppnå detta mål har diskuterats i praxis men en av de mest frekvent tillämpade... (More)
Affärsmetoders patenterbarhet har diskuteras under en lång tid, dock är de exakta kraven för att en affärsmetod ska anses patenterbar och dessas tolkning inte tillräckligt klarlagda, varken i USA eller i Europa.
Även om patenterbarheten av affärsmetoder inte har varit en okomplicerad fråga i USA, har både de amerikanska domstolarna och det amerikanska patentkontoret uppvisat en förhållandevis liberal inställning till denna typ av patent. Det huvudsakliga spörsmålet i amerikansk rättspraxis har varit att hitta en metod som tillåter patentering av affärsmetoder men som ändå hindrar att patent på abstrakta idéer utfärdas. Många olika tillvägagångssätt för att uppnå detta mål har diskuterats i praxis men en av de mest frekvent tillämpade metoderna är maskin-eller-omvandlingstestet. Detta test fokuserar på huruvida patentansökan är kopplad till en viss maskin, eller om processen som ansökan beskriver inkluderar en omvandling av ett objekt till en annan form eller sak.
Trots att olika kriterier för att fastställa patenterbarheten av affärsmetoder har tillämpats i Europa så kretsar alla bedömningsgrunderna kring begreppet ”teknisk”. Den för tillfället aktuella metoden för att bedöma patenterbarheten av affärsmetoder kräver endast att en metod eller process är kopplad till en fysisk enhet för att betraktas som en uppfinning. Dock kan endast en uppfinnings tekniska komponenter ligga till grund för bedömning av objektets uppfinningshöjd, vilket utgör ett avsevärt hinder för patenteringen av affärsmetoder. Därmed uppställer det europeiska patentkontoret högre krav på patentansökningar som rör affärsmetoder än den amerikanska rättsordningen. Eftersom de amerikanska och europeiska patentsystemen har vitt skilda utgångspunkter rörande patent på affärsmetoder, blir en jämförelse av de kriterier som tillämpas vid bedömning av patenterbarheten av affärsmetoder svår att genomföra.
Effekterna som de olika möjligheterna att få beviljat patent på affärsmetoder i USA och Europa kan tänkas ha på konkurrensen är en viktig fråga. Den dominerande anledningen till att införa ett patentsystem, och därmed begränsa konkurrensen, är att främja innovation. Tanken är att större uppfinningsrikedom kommer att gynna samhället på flera sätt men att kunskap har vissa specifika egenskaper som gör att statlig intervention är nödvändigt, även om detta ingripande också leder till vissa kostnader. En av de stora fördelarna med ett patentsystem är att kunskap kan överlåtas, genom till exempel licenser. Dock kan det finnas andra aspekter som bör belysas än de traditionella ekonomiska bevekelsegrunderna i en diskussion kring de positiva och negativa inverkningarna som patent kan medföra ur konkurrenshänseende. Patentkvalité är ett vida debatterat spörsmål, särskilt i förhållande till patent på affärsmetoder som ofta anses vara svaga patent. Att undersöka välfärdsaspekterna av att licensiera patent av låg kvalité är därmed endast ett tillvägagångssätt för att diskutera de möjliga effekter på konkurrensen som de skilda möjligheterna att patentera affärsmetoder i USA och Europa kan tänkas medföra. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Swedborg, Siri LU
supervisor
organization
course
JURM02 20131
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
immaterialrätt, komparativ rätt, affärsmetoder
language
English
id
3799861
date added to LUP
2013-07-02 11:55:49
date last changed
2013-07-02 11:55:49
@misc{3799861,
  abstract     = {The patentability of business methods has been debated over a long period of time, nevertheless the exact requirements for a business method to be patent eligible and their interpretation remain unclear both in the US and Europe.
	Although the patent eligibility of business methods has not been an obvious matter in the US, the US courts and the US patent office has chosen to adopt a quite liberal stance towards this type of patents. The chief concern of the US courts has been to device a standard that will allow the patenting of business methods without granting a patent on the abstract idea itself. Many different approaches have been debated in case law but one of the most prominent standards is the machine-or-transformation test. Hence the connection to a particular machine, or the transformation of an object into a different state or thing, has been two of the main preconditions discussed in US case law in regards to business methods.
	Even though the standards applied in Europe to determine the patent eligibility of business methods have varied slightly, the term ”technical” has always been central. The current test to assess the patentability of business methods is often referred to as the ”any-hardware approach”. Despite the fact that this standard has relaxed the requirement for a subject matter to be regarded as an invention, the precondition of inventive step, that can only be judged on the basis of the technical features of an invention, is still a great obstacle to patenting business methods in Europe. Hence, the EPO applies a more stringent policy, in relation to the regime implemented in the US, and the fundamentally different starting points of the US and European patent systems make them difficult to compare.
	The impact that the diverging regimes regarding business method patents implemented in the US and Europe have on competition is an important matter to discuss. The main motivation for creating a patent system, and thereby restricting competition, is to further innovation. The notion is that greater inventiveness will benefit society in several ways and that the special characteristics of knowledge compel the government to intervene on the market, incurring certain costs. One of the great benefits of the patent system is the possibility to trade knowledge through e.g. licensing agreements. However, there may be other circumstances to consider than the traditional economic rationales when discussing the positive and negative effects that patents may have on competition. The quality of patents is a widely debated matter, especially in connection with business method patents which are often referred to as weak patents. Investigating the welfare implications of licensing weak patents is only one way to discuss some of the possible effects on competition that the diverging policies applied in the US and Europe concerning business method patents might produce.},
  author       = {Swedborg, Siri},
  keyword      = {immaterialrätt,komparativ rätt,affärsmetoder},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Business Method Patents in the US and Europe – Diverging Policies and their Effect on Competition},
  year         = {2013},
}