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Frequently Asked Questions

How long do business method patents remain in force and what rights do they grant the owner?

Business method patents, a subset of process patents, are a crucial part of the Internet economy. They remain in force for approximately 17 years and grant the owner exclusive economic use and licensing rights for the process. This means that the owner has the sole right to use, sell, or license the patented process, providing a significant competitive advantage, especially in the digital age. For instance, Netflix's patent for computer-based content streaming was instrumental in its business model and led to a successful patent infringement lawsuit against Blockbuster. These patents are categorized into various classes based on the industry, such as processes for financial data, agriculture, video games, and the education industry. However, not all processes are patentable. The USPTO's "Interim Guidelines" and the "machine versus transformation" test set the general criteria for a business method to be patentable. In 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals' Federal Circuit ruled that this test could not be the sole criteria for granting patents. For business processes related to computer mechanisms, such as hardware or software, it was determined that the process must meet certain criteria, including demonstrating a real economic and business benefit, performing a useful business process, and properly describing the mechanism used to create the process.

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