Friday, August 11, 2006

NYTimes on patents in the financial services area

The August 11 New York Times has an article, A Wall Street Rush to Patent Profit-Making Methods, which presents the (unanswered) question: Which [financial services] firm will be the first to try to enforce its growing portfolio of [business method] patents?

The Times article got into the "problems at the USPTO" theme: Perennially understaffed and now overwhelmed by the sheer volume and complexity of these “dreamed up by a rocket engineer” financial products and systems, the patent office has struggled to keep up with the flood of applications. These days, banks and other financial giants are being granted patents they applied for four or even five years ago. Last year, more than 1,000 patents for processing financial and management data were approved, up from 200 in 1997. The Times article neglected to mention the extra scrutiny "business method" patents get at the USPTO.

The Times article mentioned patent trolls: They say Wall Street banks are trying to patent products or software systems in an effort to protect themselves from claims or litigation brought by individuals or small companies whose primary business is holding patents — those known to their detractors as patent trolls. In this definition, one escapes "trollism" by having a primary business other than holding patents. Because a university seeks, primarily, to educate and to do research, holding patents is not its primary business. BUT, remember Madey v. Duke University.

The Times article mentioned Ocean Tomo: •“Right now, people are figuring out they need some playing cards so that if someone comes to us and says ‘You’re infringing,’ well, we have some patents and we can do a cross-licensing deal and everyone goes away,” says Raymond Millien, a former patent lawyer for American Express who is now the general counsel with Ocean Tomo, a merchant bank specializing in intellectual property. The Times article neglected to mention the patent auction of Ocean Tomo.

The Times article went into ancient history: In 1982, Merrill Lynch sued the rival brokerage firm Paine Webber, accusing it of infringing on a patent Merrill received on its cash management accounts. Eventually, the two reached a settlement. The discussion of a litigation in 1982 is not entirely consistent with the earlier text: A federal court decision in 1998 [State Street] that software and business methods could be patented also fed the rush to seek patents.


Post a Comment

<< Home