Business and financial method patents, innovation, and policy

Bronwyn Hall


Two court decisions in the 1990s are widely viewed as having opened the door to a flood of business method and financial patents at the US Patent and Trademark Office, and to have also impacted other patent offices around the world. A number of scholars, both legal and economic, have critiqued both the quality of these patents and the decisions themselves. This paper reviews the history of business method and financial patents briefly and then explores what economists know about the relationship between the patent system and innovation, in order to draw some tentative conclusions about their likely impact. It concludes by finding some consensus in the literature about the problems associated with this particular expansion of patentable subject matter, highlighting the remaining areas of disagreement, and reviewing the various policy recommendations.

Keywords: intellectual property, State Street, software, internet; business methods, patents, innovation

JEL No. G28,K2,L86,O34

UNU-MERIT Working Papers ISSN 1871-9872

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