Financial Technology (FINTECH) software is patentable in the US … sometimes

FINTECH software is generally patentable, provided it solves
a technical problem

The USPTO examination guidelines on subject matter eligibility have an interesting example in the field of financial technology (FINTECH) software. 

The important points are:

  1. If features that are a solution to a technological problem can be claimed, then it may be much easier to have a FINTECH software patent invention patented.
  2. It is important to argue the “technological advantage” of a FINTECH invention, and that patent specifications should be drafted with this in mind. 
  3. Reciting “generic computer features” will not make an otherwise un-patentable FINTECH software patent patentable, because it is merely(in the USPTO’s view) trying to limit an abstract idea to a “particular technology environment”.

This particular example explores the patentability of a stock quote alert subscription service where subscribers receive customisable stock quotes on their local computers from a remote data source.

Below, is a claim to this invention considered to be allowable by the USPTO.  It’s patentable, in the USPTO’s opinion, because the claim, although  directed to an “abstract idea”, has additional elements that amount to significantly more than the abstract idea. 

The example also considers the same claim but without the underlined features. The USPTO considers that the claim without the underlined features is not patentable because is directed to an abstract idea and does not have additional elements that amount to significantly more than the abstract idea.

Here is the claim:

A method of distributing stock quotes over a network to a remote subscriber computer, the method comprising:

providing a stock viewer application to a subscriber for installation on the remote subscriber computer

receiving stock quotes at a transmission server sent from a data source over the Internet, the transmission server comprising a microprocessor and a memory that stores the remote subscriber’s preferences for information format, destination address, specified stock price values, and transmission schedule, wherein the microprocessor filters the received stock quotes by comparing the received stock quotes to the specified stock price values;  

generates a stock quote alert from the filtered stock quotes that contains a stock name, stock price and a universal resource locator (URL), which specifies the location of the data source;  

formats the stock quote alert into data blocks according to said information format; and
transmits the formatted stock quote alert over a wireless communication channel to a wireless device associated with a subscriber based upon the destination address and transmission schedule,  

wherein the alert activates the stock viewer application to cause the stock quote alert to display on the remote subscriber computer and to enable connection via the URL to the data source over the Internet when the wireless device is locally connected to the remote subscriber computer and the remote subscriber computer comes online.


In rejecting the claim without the underlines features, the USPTO points out that the claim recites the additional “non abstract” limitations of using a transmission server with a memory that stores subscriber preferences, a transmitter that receives and sends information over the Internet, and a microprocessor that performs the generic functions of comparing and formatting information. The transmission server is recited at a high level of generality and its broadest reasonable interpretation comprises only a microprocessor, memory and transmitter to simply perform the generic computer functions of receiving, processing and transmitting information.

Generic computers performing generic computer functions, alone, do not amount to significantly more than the abstract idea. 

Finally, the Internet limitations are simply a field of use that is an attempt to limit the abstract idea to a particular technological environment and, so do not add significantly more. 

Viewing the limitations as an ordered combination does not add anything further than looking at the limitations individually. When viewed either individually, or as an ordered combination, the additional limitations do not amount to a claim as a whole that is significantly more than the abstract idea.

In accepting the claim with the underlined features, the USPTO points out that when looking at the additional limitations as an ordered combination, the invention as a whole does amount to significantly more than simply organising and comparing data. 

[The following is the important bit – Justin] The claimed invention addresses the Internet‐centric challenge of alerting a subscriber with time sensitive information when the subscriber’s computer is offline. This is addressed by transmitting the alert over a wireless communication channel to activate the stock viewer application, which causes the alert to display and enables the connection of the remote subscriber computer to the data source over the Internet when the remote subscriber computer comes online. These are meaningful limitations that add more than generally linking the use of the abstract idea (the general concept of organizing and comparing data) to the Internet, because they solve an Internet‐centric problem with a claimed solution that is necessarily rooted in computer technology.

The take home message is, if features are a solution to a technological problem can be included in the claims then it may be much easier to have a FINTECH software patent invention patented.

It would appear that it is quite important be able to argue what I call “technological advantages” of a FINTECH invention, and that patent specifications should be drafted with this in mind. It is also apparent, however, that reciting “generic computer features” will not make an otherwise un-patentable FINTECH software patent patentable, because it is merely (in the USPTO’s view) trying to limit an abstract idea to a “particular technology environment”.

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