Business Wire has been awarded a patent that covers press release SEO tactics. The patent language is foggy, and either handed Business Wire useless intellectual rights or permission to sue every company who ever optimizes a press release.
Business Wire Now Patenting “Methods”
Business Wire, founded in 1961, has been a major force in press release distribution for the past 50 years. Now their power may have grown substantially. According to their own press release, the recently awarded patent included “the technological process of optimizing and distributing press releases to maximize their ability to be found and tracked in leading search engines” (emphasis added).
Pay attention to that word “process.” This wasn’t Business Wire patenting a bit of software or a new visible technology. This is the patenting of an SEO strategy.
Additional verbiage confirms that this isn’t just the patenting of Business Wire’s systems; the patent claim itself (as cited by Elevate Local) gives Business Wire rights to “a computer-implemented method comprising” (emphasis added) a variety of standard SEO tactics, most of them centering around the analysis and optimization of document structure and keyword use.
Wait – Did SEO Tactics Just Get Patented?
Can Business Wire actually patent these ideas? That’s not clear within the patent itself.
While the language indicates that Business Wire now has rights to overarching SEO methodology, the rights granted encompass a list of specific procedures that are laid out in precise order. It may be that all Business Wire successfully gained rights to was their specific order of operations and the right to call their approach patented.
Really, this is like patenting Waltz choreography; the dance is old, you didn’t invent the moves, and it’s almost impossible to enforce your intellectual rights unless others are copying you in the most obvious ways. What we’re left with is two extremes.
If the implementation of individual methods outside the general framework and order of appearance isn’t restricted by the patent, then the patent is (for practical patenting purposes) meaningless. But, if those SEO procedures can be restricted outside the process order, this means a big change for SEO: All optimization and marketing tactics would become fair game for patenting and subsequent litigation.
What’s your take?