As has been well documented, the Supreme Court’s decision in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank has had a dramatic impact on the allowability of computer implemented inventions. This second article in our series explores the dynamics of that impact on the e-commerce arts. Our first article showed that in the finance arts (e.g. banking and insurance) Alice had an immediate and substantial impact reducing allowances per month by a factor of 10. A similar but more complicated impact was felt in e-commerce. Allowances per month immediately dropped but then recovered only to drop again. We will present an analysis of what is being allowed today as a guide to practitioners filing applications in this field.
Art Unit Organization by Subclasses
E-Commerce patents fall under the general category of business methods and are examined in work groups 3620 and 3680. Table 1 below shows the technologies they encompass as well as the associated “old” US patent classifications and the examining art units. The old US patent classifications are referenced because they are still used to assign applications to art units. The primary class of e-commerce and business method patents is class 705. The “e-Commerce subclasses” in the table below is based on the majority subclasses being examined in each art unit. The subclass designations generally account for at least 80% of the applications being examined in a given art unit. Interestingly, a significant minority of applications in these art units are not classified as 705 applications. According to conversations I’ve had with examiners, these are cases that were originally assigned to other work groups but were later referred into these work groups because the classifications done by the contractor were not correct. Apparently even after reassignment into these work groups, the original class/subclass designations stayed in the PAIR records for the applications.