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WASHINGTON-The American Bankers Association recently announced its creation of the ABA Business Methods Patents Advisory Group will pool information and resources for the banking industry in response to a growing interest in patent matters. Until 1998, the general rule was that a method of doing business was not patentable. However, that year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the validity of a patent for a data processing system used to implement a mutual-fund investment structure. Since then, a number of business method patents have been issued and bankers’ interest is growing in protecting existing practices and procedures. Credit union trade group attorneys say that credit unions have expressed little interest in the matter. NAFCU Director of Regulatory Affairs Gwen Baker said that she has touched on the issue in various seminars she has taught, but has not gotten any questions on the subject. “It is an interesting thing that they’re doing,” she remarked of the bankers’ group. CUNA Vice President of Communications and Media Outreach Pat Keefe said the group’s General Counsel office said they were unaware of similar efforts or interests from credit unions. The group will compile a database of “prior art,” to determine whether or not a business method is original enough to warrant patenting. Prior art can be used to demonstrate that a business method was commonly used prior to patenting and thus nullifies the patent. Aside from industry education, the ABA’s groups will also serve as a liaison to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and provide the banking industry’s perspective on patent issues affecting the financial services industry.

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