Business Method Patents: Characters in Search of Legal Protection
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The aim of this research is to investigate the phenomenon of business method patents in Europe. Not only the issue of patentability of business methods is discussed, but also the possible strategic use of these patents and patent applications is explored. For this purpose, a data set has been specifically created, including all the applications submitted in the class G06Q (namely data processing systems or methods, specially adapted for administrative, commercial, financial, managerial, supervision or forecasting purpose) at the EPO. A quantitative analysis of the data has been performed, revealing the huge volume of business method patent applications (more than 34,000) filed at the EPO over the last 20 years. Equally, a continued interest of large companies in patenting business methods has been demonstrated. However, these empirical observations seem to be inconsistent with both the legal framework (most notably Article 52 EPC 2000 establishes that business methods are not patentable) and the low rate of acceptance of applications (only a small fraction of patents have eventually been granted) in the category of business methods at the EPO. All of this supports the hypothesis that firm demand for business method patent protection can be driven by strategic purposes, often resulting in inefficiencies in the market and reducing in competition. Hence, the research presented intends to highlight overcoming inefficiencies, as well as possible antidotes provided by the EU competition law. On this purpose, some of the common practices, such as hold-up or tacit collusion, are identified. At the same time, the beneficial effects of mutual licensing agreements are highlighted. In particular, the research examines the European legal framework on the technology transfer agreements. Their effectiveness in contrasting business method patents’ strategic uses is analysed, particularly regarding reduction on competition. Based on this, the thesis argues ultimately that a wider opening in granting patent protection to business methods will not result in discouraging new entries in the field.
AuthorsConiglione, Giuseppina Claudia
- Theses