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NEW YORK – The U.S Patent & Trademark Office has seen an increase in the number of financial planners that have applied for patents to protect their ideas and strategies. Patenting financial planning strategies are grouped in the business-method patents category and became popular after a 1998 federal appeals court decision involving a dispute between Signature Financial Group Inc. and State Street Bank & Trust Co., the Wall Street Journal recently reported. As long as an invention is common and has a use, the court ruled that business-method patents are just as legitimate as gadget patents. In 2003, there were nearly 6,000 business-method patent applications with only 495 actually issued. The Wall Street Journal also reported that after the court ruling, which occurred during the dot-com bonanza, many rushed to obtain business-method patents for a variety of non-traditional strategies. Some of the more common techniques recently patented are enabling charities to build endowments with life-insurance policies on donors; converting future Social Security payments into current benefits; and transferring appreciated assets to family members with minimum and gift taxes, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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