Increasingly, the very way a business operates can be the subject of a patent lawsuit. Tobias Higbie / flickr Some of the patents that have generated the most outrage in recent years are patents that make claims about everyday business practices: using online shopping carts, scanning documents to e-mail, tracking a vehicle, or using online ads to pay for content. Using a gift card? Finding real estate online? Automatic online bidding? All have been patented, and all by so-called “patent trolls” with no business other than suing over their patents. Defenders of current patent law tend to portray these situations as outliers. But trolls asserting patents on business practices is increasingly becoming the norm. That’s the finding of a new study (PDF) on business method patents published today by PatentFreedom, a defense-oriented patent analytics company.

The study focused only on business method patents asserted by trolls, which PatentFreedom more diplomatically calls non-practicing entities, or NPEs. 1     

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