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Have Business Method Patents Gotten a Bum Rap? Some Empirical Evidence


  • Hunter, Starling David, III


This study presents the results of an empirical test of two hypotheses concerning the quality of a group of data processing patents on methods of doing business. The hypotheses are motivated by two frequently voiced criticisms of these patents: that their scope is overly broad and that they cite too little "prior art" (the extant body of knowledge or the array of prior solutions to the problem which the patented invention purports to solve). Using a sample of over 3,500 data processing, software, and internet patents granted between 1975-1999, I tested the two hypotheses with three patent statistics - the number of patent and non-patent prior art citations and the number of claims. In short, I find little support for the "conventional wisdom" concerning patents on methods of doing business. More specifically, I find that these patents neither cite less patent or non-patent prior nor make more claims While these findings don't completely exonerate business method patents of the charges of inferior quality, they do suggest that, at a minimum, they are no worse than other data processing patents along these two aspects of patent quality

Suggested Citation

  • Hunter, Starling David, III, 2003. "Have Business Method Patents Gotten a Bum Rap? Some Empirical Evidence," Working papers 4326-03, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:mit:sloanp:3538

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    Cited by:

    1. Stefan Wagner, 2008. "Business Method Patents In Europe And Their Strategic Use—Evidence From Franking Device Manufacturers," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(3), pages 173-194.
    2. Stefano Comino & Fabio Maria Manenti, 2015. "Intellectual Property and Innovation in Information and Communication Technology (ICT)," JRC Working Papers JRC97541, Joint Research Centre (Seville site).
    3. Wagner, S. & Cockburn, I., 2010. "Patents and the survival of Internet-related IPOs," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 214-228, March.


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