Monday, April 19, 2010

Business Methods Monday - Documents, Communications, and Ratings

This week, I'll discuss new business methods subclasses 705/342 through 348, that deal with business documentation, employee and customer communications, business or product ratings, and business modeling inventions. All of the subclasses we are discussing in this series require, as a fundamental element of the claimed disclosure, a "computerized arrangement".

You can view this section of the schedule in the USPTO Manual of Classification. This portion of the schedule is shown here:

342 . Business documentation
343 .. Service or product manual or catalogue
344 .. Publishing content to a subscriber of a service
345 . Employee communication administration
346 . Customer communication at a business location (e.g., providing
product or service information, consulting, etc.)
347 . Business establishment or product rating or recommendation
348 . Business modeling

Business Documentation and its two indented subclasses are found at 705/342--344. Business Documentation (705/342), per se, requires a computerized arrangement involving " of business documents or business document generation as a business function . . ." which must include a ". . . means for distribution, processing or the usage of the business data in a business environment." This latter requirement is re-emphasized in a clarifying note. Indented below Business documentation is subclass 705/343, Service or product manual or catalogue. This subclass covers disclosures that provide ". . . generation of documents used to describe the use or the features of a business service or product with a means for distribution or usage in a business environment." These documents are considered to be both hard copy and electronic. Also indented below Business documentation is subclass 705/344, Publishing content to a subscriber of a service. In this subclass, subject matter must be for ". . . generating, managing or brokering of on-line or hard copy documents, with means for distribution, access or usage by the clients of the business." This includes disclosures where documents may be published in response to a predetermined schedule, or as a result of
triggering events, according to the accompanying note. To be classified in any of these three subclasses, the invention must include a means for distribution or usage in a business environment.

Employee Communication Administration is now classified at 705/345. USPTO considers administering employee communication to be ". . . directing business activity information or instructions to agents of a business via the Intranet, Internet, World Wide Web, including wireless communications to business personnel"; agents are considered employees per an accompanying note. Also, ". . . communications to remote agents of the business, such as field service, sales, delivery or other personnel" are included here.

Customer Communication, subclass 705/346, is for Customer Communication at a business location (e.g., providing product or service information, consulting, etc.). Inventive content classified here is ". . . for communications directed to client in a place of business by means of a wired or a wireless network." See or search notes direct some disclosures to other class 705 subclasses: 705/7 for analytical content, 705/14.1 for a coupon or other incentive, 705/14.4 for advertising, 705/16 for effecting a transaction and determining the amount of a sale, or 705/26 for aspects related to electronic shopping.

Business Establishment or Product Rating or Recommendation is now included in subclass 705/347. To be classified here, art must include ". . . ranking or collecting reviews regarding business entities or the products or the services of business entities." Two important see or search notes direct disclosures including analysis of business processes or operations research to 705/7, or disclosures including on-line browsing or purchase of a product or service to 705/26.

Business Modeling is found at 705/348. This art is considered to be ". . . simulation of a business operation or a function; or a document." A see or search note directs inventions ". . including analysis of business processes or operations research" to 705/7. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. How can simulations "of a business operation or a function; or a document" be performed without analysis? It would seem that any art intended to be classified here would stop at 705/7 or its indented subclasses according to the rules of classification. Time will tell.

In next week's final installment of this series, Sean will take a look at digital rights management, which USPTO has added as a new cross-reference art collection at the bottom of the class 705 schedule.

Business Methods Monday is the work of Mike Bowman and Sean Henderson. Mr. Bowman and Mr. Henderson have probably read more business methods patents than anyone having reclassified them into the new class structure for USPTO.

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