Beyond the Hype: A Rational Look at Internet Patents
E-commerce patents have attracted a lot of attention in the news lately and the U.S. Patent Office is facing criticism, once again, relating to their examination and issuance of patents relating to a revolutionary new technology.
I say “once again” because this is not the first time a new technological development has stirred up controversy at the U.S. Patent Office. Over a century ago, there was severe criticism relating to
the granting of agricultural inventions.
This was followed by debates about the patenting of the telephone, the automobile, pharmaceutical drugs and the recent criticism of the biotechnology industry. With this historical backdrop, it is little wonder that the development of the Internet has spawned another patenting debate.
The term “Internet patent” or “e-commerce patent” is a very broad term used to define innovations in cyberspace. These terms have little legal significance and were coined simply out of necessity.
How else can you describe the wide variety of patents relating to the World Wide Web? A software patent protecting a novel Internet-related application and a business method patent designed for use in e-commerce are both commonly bundled under the general category “Internet patents”.
Indeed, an increasing number of patents are being issued for innovations that combine software or Internet use with a novel business methodology. Internet and e-commerce patent applications are being filed in record numbers by banks, stockbrokers, insurance companies, and online retailers to protect their innovations.