The USPTO's Transitional Program for Covered Business Method Patents was specifically installed to dissolve confusion surrounding the validity of financial product and service patents. The framework will soon receive its next test from Branch Banking and Trust (BB&T), which hopes to deflect an infringement suit regarding the electronic transfer of funds.
According to American Banker, BB&T initially received the claim of infringement in 2012 from computer chip manufacturer Maxim Integrator. The plaintiff also named Capitol One, Starbucks, Walmart and others in separate suits. Maxim insists that these entities have violated one of its core patents covering the conversion of financial assets as they're exchanged between electronic endpoints.
"BB&T is saying the patent should never have been issued because the subject matter is ineligible for a patent - it's too abstract, too general and too intangible," Ropes & Gray patent litigator Jim Myers, who will lead BB&T's district court challenge, told American Banker. "You can't patent an idea. We believe Maxim with [US Patent No. 5,949,880] has patented the idea of moving digital cash from one place to another."
Such business method patents represent a growing proportion of intellectual assets currently tied up in infringement litigation, according to Ars Technica. Although these assertions can be frustrating for business owners, an expert awareness of emerging America Invents Act provisions should help them effectively insulate their operations against frivolous litigation.