Process Patents - maybe I just don't get it...

OK, I'll admit maybe I just don't get this whole thing about patenting a business process. The US Patent Office can issue a Utility Patent to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, compositions of matter, or any new useful improvement thereof.
Utility Patent- Issued for the invention of a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof, it generally permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention for a period of up to twenty years from the date of patent application filing ++, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. Approximately 90% of the patent documents issued by the PTO in recent years have been utility patents, also referred to as "patents for invention."
Now of important to this blog is the patent owned by NetFlix (which I believe is a really cool company) who is in the process of suing Blockbuster (which I think is a sucky company) for patent infringement. The patent abstract is below - but my major point of contention is this - are business process patents good? I don't think so - I believe they could possibly be too vague (although look really impressive) and too broad - allowing the patent holder to sue someone (specifically their competition) and raise the barrier to entry. The next big problem - most other countries don't allow business processes to protected (only the US). Enough - read on and determine it for yourself...

Approach for renting items to customers (Abstract)

United States Patent #7,024,381

According to a computer-implemented approach for renting items to customers, customers specify what items to rent using item selection criteria separate from deciding when to receive the specified items. According to the approach, customers provide item selection criteria to a provider provides the items indicated by the item selection criteria to customer over a delivery channel. The provider may be either centralized or distributed depending upon the requirements of a particular application. A "Max Out" approach allows up to a specified number of items to be rented simultaneously to customers. A "Max Turns" approach allows up to a specified number of item exchanges to occur during a specified period of time. The "Max Out" and "Max Turns" approaches may be used together or separately with a variety of subscription methodologies.

Owner: NetFlix


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