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Business Method Patents in Europe and their Strategic Use – Evidence from Franking Device Manufacturers

  • Stefan Wagner

    (LMU München)

There has been a wide-spread misconception based on the imprecise wording of Art. 52 of the European Patent Convention (EPC) that the protection of business methods by patents is prohibited in Europe. This paper investigates the legal framework set by patent laws with respect to the patentability of business methods, contrasting the situation in Europe and the situation in the US. It is shown that in praxi business methods have never been excluded from patentability in Europe. Further, 1,901 European patent applications relating to business methods are found by identifying European equivalents to granted USPTO patents filed in US Class 705 (i.e. business method patents). The computation of major patent indicators reveals that European applications for business method patents differ from the average of all EPO patent applications with respect to the number of claims, the number of references made and the frequency of legal actions against granted patents. Additionally, a case study from the franking device industry gives evidence of the strategic use of business method patents leading to comparably high opposition rates against 44% of all granted patents.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Law and Economics with number 0410003.

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Length: 48 pages
Date of creation: 18 Oct 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwple:0410003
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 48
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  1. Harhoff, Dietmar & Wagner, Stefan, 2006. "Modeling the Duration of Patent Examination at the European Patent Office," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 170, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  2. Griliches, Zvi, 1990. "Patent Statistics as Economic Indicators: A Survey," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 28(4), pages 1661-1707, December.
  3. Dietmar Harhoff & Francis Narin & Frederic M. Scherer & Katrin Vopel, 1997. "Citation Frequency and the Value of Patented Innovation," CIG Working Papers FS IV 97-26, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB), Research Unit: Competition and Innovation (CIG).
  4. Harhoff, Dietmar & Scherer, Frederic M. & Vopel, Katrin, 2003. "Citations, family size, opposition and the value of patent rights," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(8), pages 1343-1363, September.
  5. Guellec, Dominique & Pottelsberghe de la Potterie, Bruno v., 2000. "Applications, grants and the value of patent," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 109-114, October.
  6. Harhoff, Dietmar & Reitzig, Markus, 2002. "Determinants of Opposition Against EPO Patent Grants - The Case of Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals," CEPR Discussion Papers 3645, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Lerner, Josh, 1995. "Patenting in the Shadow of Competitors," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(2), pages 463-95, October.
  8. Hall, Bronwyn H., 2003. "Business Method Patents, Innovation, and Policy," Competition Policy Center, Working Paper Series qt66w6p7qz, Competition Policy Center, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  9. Lanjouw, Jean O & Schankerman, Mark, 2001. "Characteristics of Patent Litigation: A Window on Competition," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(1), pages 129-51, Spring.
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