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Congress Wants Closer Look At Business Method Patents<@VM>Group Outlines Concerns Over FirstGov to House<@VM>ITAA Thanks Davis For Vetoing Internet Taxes

Rep. Rick Boucher

By Kerry Gildea

Reps. Rick Boucher, D-Va., and Howard Berman, D-Calif., introduced legislation Oct. 2 to review how the government issues Internet "business method" patents.

Two years ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in the State Street Bank decision that a patent could be issued on a method of doing business, Boucher said. Since then, the Patent and Trademark Office has been deluged with applications for business method patents.

Unfortunately, the patent office has granted some highly questionable ones, he added. For example, last year it awarded a patent to Amazon.com for its "one-click" method of shopping at its Web site.

"Something is fundamentally wrong with a system that allows individuals to get patents for doing the seemingly obvious," Boucher said.

One goal of the new Business Method Patent Improvement Act is to develop an appropriate framework for the patent office to assess the claims asserted by would-be business method inventors and to give the public a meaningful opportunity to participate before a patent is awarded, not just after, Boucher said.The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) outlined concerns to lawmakers regarding the FirstGov portal announced in September by the General Services Administration and a not-for-profit FedSearch Foundation.

Mark Bohannon, SIIA general counsel and vice president for governmental affairs, told the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology of several concerns that relate to FirstGov as a system and not merely a new Web portal.

Among those concerns are the exclusivity of the relationship between GSA and FedSearch and the growing ways in which government actions may be impeding competition in electronic commerce, Bohannon said. There is a need to make all documents related to this project available to the public, he added.The Information Technology Association of America praised Calif. Gov. Grey Davis for his Sept. 25 veto of a state bill that would have imposed sales taxes on residents' online purchases.

"Sales taxes are an early 20th century notion that have become inordinately complex in the Internet Age, an issue that needs to be studied more at the national level as well as in the states," ITAA President Harris Miller said in a statement. "We commend Gov. Davis' bold move, which will allow e-commerce to continue to grow in California and across the world."

Harris stated that individual states and localities passing Internet tax laws now "would only further complicate the already complex issues of nexus and taxing jurisdiction."

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