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Example of Patent Claim to a Purely Computer Implemented Method

Recently,  I discovered that a piece of SPAM in my email inbox that advertised a patented technology. U.S. Patent No. 7,203,674 is directed to electronic dating. The following independent claim shows a fair sampling of what the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) considers patentable in the realm of computers, at least as of 2007, but likely as of 2010, too (emphasis included on strategic language):

1. In an electronic dating service, a computer implemented method comprising:

establishing an electronic connection between a first personal computing device of a first user and a second personal computing device of a second user to allow the first and second user to have a person-to-person date via a real-time communication, for a predefined duration;

ending said electronic connection between said first personal computing device of said first user and said second personal computing device of said second user after the predefined duration;

after said electronic connection between said first personal computing device of said first user and said second personal computing device of said second user ends, automatically prompting the first and second users to produce a response indicating whether they felt interest in each other during the person-to-person date, each of the first and second users being prompted irrespective of an indication from the other user;

determining a two-way match if both first and second user indicate an interest in each other; and

if the two-way match occurs and both first and second user indicate that they would like to extend the date, re-establishing the electronic connection between said first personal computing device of said first user and said second personal computing device of said second user.

Note that the method requires a device, albeit a generic “personal computing device.” Another independent claim is similarly worded (emphasis included on strategic language):

21. In an electronic dating service, a computer implemented method comprising:

presenting to a user an interface wherein the user may choose to go on a group date;

presenting to the user a list of upcoming group-date events;

determining if there is space available in an upcoming group-date event within the list for the user;

determining if the user meets specified criteria for the upcoming group-date event, the specified criteria depending on a profile of the user; after the user selects the upcoming group-date event, automatically defining a round of dates for the user;

when the upcoming group-date event starts, allowing the user to participate in the round of dates; and

if a number of users who have signed up for the event within a predefined interval before the event is insufficient, canceling the event, and informing the signed up users electronically of the cancellation.

Note that the patentee also included a “system” claim that looks suspiciously like a method claim (emphasis included):

26. A system for an electronic dating service comprising:

a plurality of personal computing devices, utilized by a plurality of users, connected to each other via a network; and

a controller to (a) establish an electronic connection between the plurality of personal computing devices to allow the plurality of users to have a person-to-person date via a real-time communication, (b) disconnect the plurality of personal computing devices after a predefined duration of time, (c) after-the electronic connection between the plurality of personal computing devices ends, automatically prompt the plurality of users to produce a negative or affirmative response whether they felt an attraction for each other during the person-to-person date, each of the plurality of users being prompted irrespective of an indication from the other user, and (d) determine a two-way match if the plurality of users indicate affirmative responses.

The patentee included a “machine-readable storage”-type claim to cover media shipped that could perform the method that the patentee sought to protect (emphasis included):

29. An article of manufacture comprising a machine-readable storage medium storing instructions which, when executed by a processing system, cause the processing system to perform a method, the method comprising:

establishing an electronic connection between a first personal computing device of a first user and second personal computing device of a second user to allow the first and second user to have a person-to-person date via a real-time communication, for a predefined duration;

ending said electronic connection between said first personal computing device of said first user and said second personal computing device of said second user after the predefined duration;

after said electronic connection between said first and second users ends, automatically prompting the first and second users to produce a response indicating whether they felt interest in each other during the person-to-person date, each of the first and second users being prompted irrespective of an indication from the other user;

determining a two-way match if both first and second user indicate an interest in each other; and

if the two-way match occurs and both first and second user indicate that they would like to extend the date, re-establishing the electronic connection between said first personal computing device of said first user and said second personal computing device of said second user.

While these claims were issued in 2007, I suspect that they would still be considered patentable in view of the recent Bilski decision that addressed whether strictly computer implemented inventions are patentable subject matter.