Copyright (c) 1999 Journal of Intellectual Property Law Association
Journal of Intellectual Property Law
NOTE: STATE STREET BANK & TRUST CO. V. SIGNATURE FINANCIAL GROUP, INC.: OUGHT THE MATHEMATICAL ALGORITHM AND BUSINESS METHOD EXCEPTIONS RETURN TO BUSINESS AS USUAL?
6 J. Intell. Prop. L. 359
Claus D. Melarti
In the past, inventors have had to rely on the concepts of copyright and trademark to protect their software related business activities from appropriation by competitors. However, after a series of recent developments culminating with the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decision in State Street Bank & Trust Co. v. Signature Financial Group, Inc., 1 companies and inventors alike may now consider seeking patent protection for their software.
The opinion, authored by Judge Giles S. Rich, may have far reaching effects on the financial industry, as it explicitly endorses patent protection for computer implemented "business methods." 2 In particular, in a single sweep, the opinion removed long-standing barriers to patents that encompass business methods, by holding that such inventions constitute patentable subject matter if they merely produce a "useful, concrete and tangible result." 3 Additionally, the State Street court grasped the opportunity to abandon another time-honored test for statutory subject matter, the so-called Freeman-Walter-Abele test that previously had served as a litmus-test for unpatentable mathematical algorithms. 4
The discussion will begin with the historical development and evolution of the business method and mathematical algorithm exceptions, followed by an analysis of recent trends leading to the State Street decision. The commentary then includes a few modest predictions of what the future may hold with respect to the financial and Internet commerce industries in the wake of the decision. Finally, the note concludes with a discussion pertaining to the wisdom of a permanent removal ...
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