Business process patents cover a way of conducting business, and last summer the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that they are legitimate.
Since the Internet is a new medium and online commerce is a new activity, the ruling bolsters the e-commerce patents issued last year, some of which take existing ways of doing business in the physical world and moving them online.
Here's a sampling of recently issued patents in the e-commerce market issued last year by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:
Online markets for goods, MercExchange number 5,845,265. Filed November 1995. Issued December 1, 1998. Predating Priceline's patent, inventor Thomas Woolston claims it covers Priceline's model.
Session identifiers, Open Market, number 5,708,780. May cover digital certificates, but not cookies, to track users on a Web site. Filed June 1995. Issued January 13, 1998.
Shopping carts, Open Market, number 5,715,314. Filed October 1994. Issued February 3, 1998.
Managing personal privacy in a computer network, CyberGold, number 5,855,008. Filed December 11, 1995. Issued December 29, 1998, for giving individuals a way to control what personal data is given to Web sites.