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You Can’t Patent Process

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A federal appeals court has issued a powerful ruling for the world of process improvement: business processes cannot be patented.

You can find an overview of the ruling here. To summarize, the court explained that patents should be restricted to cover only “physical objects or substances, [but not] abstractions.” The decision was aimed at the financial services industry, but the outcome clarifies that the detailed nature of work is non-proprietary.

Process Improvement - Federal Courthouse

© Flickr user MargaretNapier

If your organization uses application forms to handle incoming requests, includes a clever approval procedure to reduce errors and ensure quality, or has a coverage system designed to ensure enough staff is always available to complete core tasks, then you are using business processes which can be freely duplicated by anyone. That may seem unbelievable, but the ruling indicates that procedures are something that can be protected.

What does that mean for you? Competitors may build upon your approaches to reach the market faster and cheaper, and your partners may decide your techniques are obsolete. Business process is not a trade secret. That means if you want to compete, you have do to so by executing better, not just by having a better process.

Since you cannot protect your corporate procedures through the vagaries of copyright law, the importance of continuous improvement is more significant than ever. Contact the business improvement experts to for services on how to make your operation more effective.

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