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Are Processes Patentable? A Case Study on Super Lawyers

Super Lawyers is an organization that provides lawyer ratings and helps people find top legal representation for specific issues in their geographic area. This selection process is a great example of a patented process. The process captures unique methodological steps for selecting an attorney based on peer nominations, evaluations, and independent research.

Process patents can be a confusing area of law for many inventors and business owners. That’s why we break down the basics and look at the Super Lawyers as an example below. If you have questions on whether your idea is patent-worthy, schedule a free IP evaluation with Wilson Dutra Law.

What Are Process Patents?

A patented process covers methods of changing the functionality or characteristics of a material during a particular use. A process patent is granted to a person who has created a new and unique process that changes the characteristics of physical materials. Put more generally, a patent grants a property right to an inventor.

Patenting a process involves obtaining a utility patent to protect a series of steps taken to manufacture a physical object. Keep in mind the to-be-patented process must (1) have a patentable subject matter, (2) be new and unique, (3) must be useful (have utility), and (4) must be non-obvious.

 

Patentable Subject Matter – The process must have a patentable subject matter based on USPTO guidelines. Mainly, to-be-patented processes cannot be abstract ideas, laws of nature, or physical phenomena. While this criterion has some gray areas, a process like Super Lawyers passes the test of patentable subject matter because it puts forth a tangible process that utilizes real resources to come to a determinative outcome.

Novelty – The process must be different from all other processes that have been publicly disclosed or patented. For example, there is no process that exists quite like the Super Lawyers’ process.

Non-Obvious – The process must not be obvious, even to a person skilled in the field. It must demonstrate something new. This can be satisfied by showing that the process is significantly different from all other processes that have been publicly disclosed or patented in the past. In the case of the Super Lawyers, the process solves a problem that no other process has solved in the past, by creating a method for selecting attorneys.

Utility – The process must offer some identifiable benefit to society. Looking at Super Lawyers, it is evident that the process provides a benefit by streamlining the process of finding great legal services.

How Do Process Patents work?

The grant of a patent provides the inventor exclusive rights to the patented process, design, or invention for a designated period (20 years in the United States), in exchange for a comprehensive disclosure of the invention.

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a patent can be granted to any person who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof may obtain a patent, subject to the conditions and requirements of the law.”

When one patents a business method or, in some cases, a computer program, this is a form of patenting a process. In fact, it’s now possible to patent subscription-based services, targeted advertising networks, online auction sites, portal sites, email systems, and even discussion forums.

For example, the Super Lawyers process patent falls into the category of a business method. Many businesses believe that the methods used to perform certain tasks are considered to be their intellectual property.

As such, these methods should be protected under the laws that govern patent protection. It is important to note that not every business method or process is patentable. In fact, there are strict limitations and classes of business methods that can be patented under the USPTO. Of these, the most common is financial data processing. This covers computer processes that involve business practices, finance, price determination, or management.

Other potentially patentable business model processes include gaming, education, and agriculture.

Why Is It Important To Protect Processes With Patents?

The social purpose of patents is to provide protection for the results of investment in the development of new technology. This gives the incentive and means to finance research and development activities.

From an inventor’s perspective, patenting a process is very important simply to be able to use the process. If another person or business patents the process first, an inventor will no longer be able to use the process as they will be infringing on the patent holder’s patent.

What this means is that if an individual has an idea for a process, it’s important to seek legal advice on whether the process is novel and can be patented. When filing, you have to be careful on how the process is described for patent protection.

Patent Your Process With an Intellectual Property Law Firm You Can Trust

Obtaining a process patent is an important step in protecting a particular process. At Wilson Dutra, we understand the importance of this process, and we’ll make it as smooth as possible and easy for you.

Schedule your free IP evaluation with Wilson Dutra Law. We’ll prioritize the protection of your innovative manufacturing process and answer all of your questions along the way.