Ignore Them At Your Peril
Business methods patents are arguably one of the most contentious and least understood facets of the intellectual property landscape; largely ignored by technology transfer organizations; rarely considered as part of the freedom to operate due diligence; not considered as an element of IP portfolio building when starting a new company or launching a university spin out company; not given much thought when developing programs to accelerate bringing new products to the marketplace.
Many of those most steeped in hard science view business methods patents as dangerously insubstantial, lying outside the province of true innovation and not worthy of a patent. But business methods patents and the informationization of innovation is accelerating the convergence of scientific and technical innovation and how those inventions are implemented in the marketplace. Ignore them at your peril.
What Is a Business Method Patent?
How can you patent using one mouse click to order a book or download a song or a method for scheduling a patient or optimizing a lab test? Can you own a patent for something you can do with a pencil, a piece of paper, and a calculator? Are these inventions?
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines a business method patent as:
Machines and methods for performing data processing or calculation operations in the practice, administration, or management of an enterprise, or processing of financial data, or determination of the charge of goods or services
Business methods patents are divided into four groups:
- Planning and Innovation — Patents focused on determining who your customers are and the products and services they want or need.
- Marketing, Selling, and Evangelizing — Patents about informing your customers that you exist, showing them your products and services, and encouraging and providing incentives for them to make purchases.
- Exchanging Money for Goods and Services — This group covers all aspects of exchanging money and credit before, during, and after a business transaction.
- Watching the Store — Here you will find patents that deal with tracking resources, money and products. These are the patents focused on human resources, scheduling, accounting, and inventory monitoring.
Business methods patents cover almost every aspect of business from how we deliver goods and services in a digital world to how we price our products, advertise, design, market, and sell to our customers. They cover how to create and commercialize the things businesses sell, business methods patents cover the entire gamut of things we do to run our businesses. They cover manufacturing, publishing, insurance, banking, investment, hedging, accounting, and the legal and contractual aspects of operating a business. There are business methods covering how to organize an electronic health record, how to do research, how to collaborate, how to sell songs over the internet, and how to schedule training classes - the list is almost endless and is growing every day.
The Impact of Business Methods Patents
Each week the highest volume of inventions falls in the medical and pharmaceutical domains. Here we present a sample of medically focused business methods patents granted in 2010, within the timeframe where these methods are likely to be commercialized, moving toward commercialization, or within a window to make them of interest of patent monetization entities. These are patents that impact how healthcare is delivered.
We made no judgements on their validity or their merit. These were selected as exemplars of healthcare related business method inventions.
The patents are organized into four groups:
- Scheduling Patient Tests
- Optimizing Medical Tests
- Optimizing Medical or Clinical Equipment or Procedures
- Risk Assessment of Medical and Clinical Equipment or Procedures
Scheduling Patient Tests
|7,822,626||Structured Data Authoring and Editing System — A suite of tools that facilitate and enhance the capability within a healthcare institution to establish and maintain an evidence-based best practice approach to providing patient care.|
|7,822,622||System and Method for Medical Appointment and Examination Sequence Planning — Optimizes a series of medical procedures and examinations to be performed on a patient.|
|7,818,182||Endoscope Management System — Managing, scheduling, and tracking, in real-time, the processing of endoscopy equipment in a single site or across multiple sites.|
|7,801,743||Use of Location Awareness to Establish Communications with a Target Clinician in a Healthcare Environment — Receiving data indicative of desire to communicate with a target clinician; receiving data regarding a wirelessly detectable tag associated with the target clinician; determining the location of the clinician within the healthcare establishment.|
|7,778,847||System for Minimizing the Cost and Maximizing the Effectiveness of Monitoring for Recurrence of a Condition — Determining an optimized surveillance schedule for follow-up diagnostic tests and doctor visits.|
Optimizing Medical Tests
|7,809,585||System and Method for Patient-Specific Optimization of Medical Therapy by Simultaneous Symbolic Reasoning in All Clinical Dimensions — A drug or medical therapy regimen is defined for any particular patient in a manner that takes not only a drug or therapy’s effectiveness into account, but also an entire spectrum of relevant clinical dimensions so as to minimize the possibility of harmful interactions while simultaneously maximizing pharmacotherapy potential.|
|7,769,603||Stent Customization System and Method — Receiving a parameter relating to a specific patient, and customizing one or more attributes of a stent ex situ.|
|7,769,600||Disease Management System and Method — Allowing a patient access to an automated process for managing a specific health problem called a disease.|
|7,739,130||Apparatus and Methods for Monitoring and Modifying Anticoagulation Therapy of Remotely Located Patients — Receiving and analyzing information regarding patient compliance with anti-coagulation medication and self-test coagulation regimens related to anti-coagulation therapy.|
Optimizing Medical or Clinical Equipment or Procedures
|7,761,309||Method and System of Mass and Multiple Casualty Triage — Triage that assesses a severity score for each casualty, and determines a treatment prioritization plan to maximize the number of survivors.|
|7,756,725||Breakaway Interfacing of Radiological Images with Work Orders — Interface between radiological information systems, imaging equipment and picture archive and communication systems (PACS) has automated filtering and handling of multi-study work orders and affiliated work orders while passing single study work orders through unaltered.|
|7,729,928||Multiple Resource Planning System — Managing remote doctor medical request workflow. A system for managing remote doctor medical request workflow may include a workflow module that optimizes assignments of medical requests to remote doctors based on parameterized doctor and scheduling information and may further include a forecasting module that predicts the hospital credentials, state licenses or doctors needed to fulfill a projected volume of future medical requests.|
Risk Assessment of Medical/Clinical Equipment or Procedures
|7,818,083||Automated Washing System with Compliance Verification and Automated Compliance Monitoring Reporting — The system provides for identifying individual users of one or more cleaning stations through various technologies, such as RFID. Individual's use of cleaning stations is monitored to determine compliance with hand-washing requirements. A compliance report may be generated based on data associated with one or more individuals' use of the cleaning station(s). Educational and/or entertainment content may be displayed to the user when he or she is using the cleaning station.|
|7,801,786||Method of Creating and Utilizing Healthcare Related Commodities — Financial instruments that allow entities to effectively and efficiently hedge the highly volatile fluctuations associated with predicting healthcare costs and revenues.|
|7,783,503||Medical Support System — Performing at least one medical support process relating to diagnosis and treatment of a medical condition that employs medical records relating to patients and medical support databases including medical guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of a medical condition.|