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Justices to Study Patents on Business Methods

Published on November 9, 2009
by Jess Bravin

Microsoft Corp., (MSFT) Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and L.L. Bean Inc. are just some of the companies that have flooded the Supreme Court with advice as it prepares for Monday’s arguments over one of the biggest questions involving intellectual property: When can a business method be patented?

There has been a surge in companies receiving patents for ways of doing business, from Amazon.com Inc.’s (AMZN) one-click checkout to Priceline.com Inc.’s (PCLN) reverse auctions, since a 1998 court decision expanded the scope of processes that could be patented.

The Supreme Court must now determine whether such swaths of modern business activity deserve patent protections, thereby opening the door to infringement lawsuits, or belong in the public domain, depriving their inventors of monopoly profits.

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