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Business Method Patents: Threat to Nonprofit Sector

The Nonprofit Innovation Alliance's Shabbir Shafdar led an engaging conversation on the threat posed to the nonprofit sector by business method patents. Its an interesting topic, and one we should all be paying close attention to.

Lyn Lybieniac, an NTEN board member, asked the group what role NTEN should be playing in facilitating dialogue around the issue. There was a recommendation to create a "prior art registry", an opportunity that I see well suited to being supported by today's simple social software (ala 43things, del.icio.us and the like), giving users the ability to reference URL's to existing patent applications demonstrating the ubiquity of the method seeking patent protection.

CrownPeak's Rob Rose told me a story afterward of a real-life infringement case that would make any nonprofit sector focused technology firm squirm. It struck me that his simple story communicated the immediacy of the threat far more clearly than Amazon v. BN over 1-click - making me think that providing the sector a venue for simple open storytelling would be another easy way to raise awareness.

A sponsored roadshow was also suggested, which could certainly add momentum to the real opportunity for impact: allowing the community to demonstrate the issue's importance through the aggregated volume of their collected voices. Afterall, the conversation is already started: a simple Technorati search on Business Method Patents shows NIA prominently featured in the most current discussions on the topic.