How to protect your business methods through the patent in China

Borsam IP
BORSAM IP———————————————

When you came up with an idea to implement a business model and put it into practice, did you think about protecting it? Or even patent it for protection? In April 2017, CNIPA (i.e. the Chinese patent office) revised its patent examination guidelines to allow the patenting of business methods provided the method had technical features. In order to further clarify the examination standards for related patent applications, new patent examination guidelines have been implemented since February 1, 2020. So under the new regulations, how do you protect your business methods through patents in China? What are the examination rules for business method patents? The following will explain to you one by one.
1. Examination based on the principle of holistic consideration is conducive to the protection
Patent applications related to artificial intelligence, “Internet +”, big data, and blockchain, often include rules and method features of intellectual activities such as algorithms and business methods. The amended guidelines state that a claim as a whole should be examined and the business method features should not be simply separated from technical features. The claim should be examined as a whole to analyze aimed technical problems, utilized technical means, and achieved technical effects. If these features are directly ignored or mechanically separated from technical features, the substantial contribution of the invention cannot be objectively evaluated, which is not conducive to protecting the true inventions.
2. A purely business method cannot be granted a patent, technical features are required
If a claim merely includes business method features without any technical features, the claim should be rejected as a rule or method of mental activity under Art. 25 of the Patent Law. If a claim includes any technical features besides business method features, and as a whole does not constitute a rule or method of mental activity, the claim should not be excluded under Art. 25 of the Patent Law and should be examined to see whether the claim constitutes a technical solution under Art. 2.2 of the Patent Law. 
3. Claims including business methods features need to be technical solutions
If a claim passed muster under Art. 25, the claim must also be examined under Art. 2.2 of the Patent Law.  Again, the claims must be considered as a whole. If the claim aims at technical problems, utilizes natural laws as technical means, and achieves technical effects, the solution of the claim is determined as constituting a technical solution under Art. 2.2 of the Patent Law.
For example, a method of using a shared bicycle, the technical problem to be solved is how to accurately find the position of the shared bicycle and unlock the shared bicycle. This program operates computer programs on the terminal device and the server, to control and guide the use of shared bicycles. It reflects the control of the collection and calculation of data, such as location information and authentication. And this program uses technology means that follows natural laws to achieve technical effects,  such as finding the accurate position of the available shared bicycle and unlocking the shared bicycle. Therefore, the solution for the invention patent application belongs to the technical solution specified in Art. 2.2 of the Patent Law and belongs to the subject matter of patent protection.
4. Claims including business methods features need have novelty and inventive steps
When assessing novelty of a claim, all features, including both technical features and business method features should be considered as a whole.
When assessing inventive steps of a claim, the examiner shall consider the business method features that are functionally mutually supportive and interact with the technical features and the technical features as a whole. “Functionally mutually supportive and interact” means that business method features are closely combined with technical features, and together constitute a technical means to solve a certain technical problem, and corresponding technical effects can be obtained.
For example, if the implementation of the business method features in the claims requires adjustment or improvement of technical means, then the business method features and technical features can be considered to support each other functionally and interact with each other. The examiner should consider the contribution of the business method features to the technical solution.
5. Describe your technical solution clearly and completely in the specification
Firstly, it should be noted that the particularity of such applications lies in the business method features, so these features should be stated in the description.
Secondly, it is necessary to explain how technical features and these features “support each other functionally and interact with each other” to solve technical problems together. For example, when including business method features, the entire process of solving a technical problem should be described and explained in detail, so that those skilled in the art can implement the solution of the invention according to the content described in the specification.
Thirdly, the beneficial effects, such as the improvement of quality, accuracy, or efficiency, and the improvement of the internal performance of the system, should be clearly stated in the specification, and detailed explanations or proofs should be given when necessary.
Fourthly, if from the perspective of the user, the invention objectively enhances the user experience, that is, the improvement of the user experience is objective and not subjective preferences that vary from person to person, it can also be explained in the specification, and also the specification shall explain how this improvement in user experience is brought about or produced by the technical features that constitute the invention, and the business method features that support each other functionally and interact with each other.
6. Clearly and briefly define the scope of patent protection claimed
Claims of patent applications involving business method features should recite the technical features and the business method features that support each other and interact with technical features.
Conclusion: This amendment unifies the examination standards for related patent applications, and gives clear guidelines on how to draft better applications, which promotes the improvement of application quality; at the same time, improves the examination quality and examination efficiency of related patent applications. Technologists in emerging technologies and new business models can use this amendment to better protect your business methods by filing a patent application.