Patents for business methods

Patentable business methods

A patent may be granted for a business method where the method directly involves a physical form or device to bring about a useful product.

The application of technology for automation of a business method must be directly involved in a substantial way, not an incidental way.

Examples of patentable business methods include computerised accounting, monitoring, reporting or analysis systems.

The business method must be new and inventive in order to be patented.

If your invention meets these criteria, you may consider seeking patent protection.

Non-patentable business methods

A scheme or plan by itself is not suitable for a patent.

For instance, a method of raising funds by seeking sponsors to donate products, and conducting a raffle of those products, cannot be patented. This is because it does not specifically involve any artificial application to implement the scheme.

Importantly, the mere presence of science or technology (for example a computer) in a claimed invention is not enough to be patentable. The computer must be directly involved in the creation of the useful product.

A business scheme that results in a written contract reflecting obligations of certain parties will not become patentable subject matter simply because a physical transformation occurs when the contract is documented using paper and ink.

Similarly, a change in the memory state of a computer used to generate, store or transmit the contract, or the use of email to communicate it, is unlikely to alter the fundamental characteristics of the method. These things would not make the method patentable.

Further information including some examples and recent office decisions can be found in the following sections of the Patent Examiners Manual:

Last updated: 
14 June 2016