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Abstract

This study presents the results of an empirical test of two hypotheses concerning the quality of business method patents. The hypotheses are motivated by two frequently voiced criticisms of those patents: that their scope is overly broad and that they cite too little prior art. Using a sample of over 3,500 data processing, software, and internet patents granted between 1975 and 1999, I find little support for these criticisms. Rather, I find that business method patents are not broader and do not cite less prior art than comparable patents. While these findings don’t completely exonerate business method patents of the charges of inferior quality, they do suggest that, at a minimum, they are no worse than comparable patents, at least along these two dimensions of quality.

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