WEB PATENT NEWS--September, 1998

by Robert M. (Bob) Hunter, Registered Patent Agent


A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) ruled recently (7/23/98) that there is no business method exception in U.S. patent law. The landmark ruling means that computerized business methods are subject to the same patentability standard as any other process or method. In State Street Bank & Trust Co. v. Signature Financial Group Inc., the CAFC found that a patent claiming a computerized method of administering mutual funds (U.S. Patent No. 5,193,056) was valid. The case stands for the proposition that any novel and non-obvious method, including a business method, can constitute statutory subject matter if it has a practical utility in producing a "useful, concrete, and tangible result." Furthermore, in clarifying the "mathematical algorithm" exception to patentability, the Court pointed out that claims can define statutory subject matter, "even if the useful result is expressed in numbers, such as price, profit, percentage, cost, or loss."


Gallatin Development Corporation (GDC), Gallatin Valley's non-profit economic development organization, has received a $8,000 grant from Project SBIR West (and funded by the U.S. West Foundation) to administer a mentoring program for Montana small businesses interested in competing for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contracts and grants. Phase I SBIR awards (up to $100,000) are used to assess the technical and economic feasibility of a concept. Phase II SBIR awards (up to $750,0000) are used to build and test a laboratory prototype of the concept. In the mentoring program, technology-based firms capable of conducting high-tech R&D are paired with Montana entrepreneurs who have successfully competed for SBIR awards. These entrepreneurs are willing to provide four hours of pro bono assistance in marketing to the Federal Government and proposal preparation to each of three new entrants per year. To date, the mentoring program has been instrumental in bringing over $850,000 of SBIR grants into the Montana economy. For more information, contact GDC's Executive Director, Cristina Boyle, at 406-587-3113.

For more information about the above topics, contact Robert M. (Bob) Hunter, Ph.D., P.E., registered patent agent, or visit the Robert M. Hunter PLLC web site at http://www.webpatent.com