How to Patent a Business Method

By: Michael J Foycik Jr. 
The author is a patent attorney with over 28 years experience in patents and trademarks. For further information, please email at, or call at 877-654-3336.

A business method
Each “how to patent” subject is discussed in detail below. Here are ways to get a patent.

A business method cannot be copyrighted, but it can sometimes be patented. Specifically, the inventive steps of certain business methods can be patented, and because of this the patent can provide protection far beyond just the specific business method language used.

First, a drawing is made showing the most important steps of the business method as a flowchart diagram. It is usually not necessary to give every detail of the operation of the business method; instead, the main features should be illustrated. The business method should be protected by a utility patent application, since that will cover any type of business method language. This is also sometimes called a “regular” patent application. The business method steps can be explained in words and by the flowchart drawings.

This is a good point to mention that there is also something called a “provisional patent application” that gives patent pending status for one year, permitting a utility patent application to be filed at any time during that year. This is much less expensive, and is recommended when there is an urgent need to get something one file, for example just prior to a trade show or publication. Further below, there is a section called “How to patent using a provisional patent application.”

Here's a simple example showing how to patent an idea for a simple and amusing invention, where a business method is used. The simplest business method already in the public domain would be a lottery. Here, tickets are sold, and based on predetermined or later-determined criteria such as the drawing of numbers, determines winning tickets. For the moment, we aren't concerned with whether it has been done before, it is just an example. For now, the idea would be expressed in words, written just as above. These steps would be shown in a simple flowchart.

Next, a claim is added to describe the invention broadly, such as the following: Claim 1: A method for selling tickets and awarding prizes, comprising the steps of: selling tickets with indicia thereon; matching the indicia with predetermined or later-determined criteria such as the drawing of numbers to determine winning tickets; and awarding prizes to winning tickets.

Standard text is then added including sections titled: background of the invention; summary of the invention; brief description of the drawings; and an abstract of the disclosure. This part is not usually hard to do, but can be time consuming.

Then, a Declaration is prepared showing the name of the inventor and title of the invention. This is from a standard form provided by the US Patent Office.

Last, a cover page including a Transmittal sheet is prepared, listing what is being filed with the US Patent Office. The Transmittal page normally will include a check for the amount of the US government filing fee, and a postcard filing receipt. The check can be omitted, as can the signed Declaration, but in that case the US Patent Office will send a notice asking for those items along with a relatively small late fee.