A patent for a strategy framework?!

I love that there are patents like this – an IBM patent for “an integrated framework for analyzing a firm in terms of its resources, capabilities and strategic positions, providing a Strategic Capability Network composed of nodes signifying these resources, capabilities and strategic positions, together with relationships between these nodes.”

Here are the full details on US patent # 6,249,768 at google patents.  Read through the patent document – it is inclusive of citations to work in SMJ and other journals.  And, this particular ‘strategy’ patent has also been referenced by many other patents.

And, here are other patents that cite SMJ. Here’s one for an “organizational innovation enhancement technique.”

5 Comments on “A patent for a strategy framework?!”

  1. Rich Makadok says:

    Great — now we will probably have to pay royalties to IBM every time we teach RBV… This is officially crazy. With the growth of business-process patents, the definition of what is “patentable” has gotten WAY out of control.

    I think I’ll submit my patent application for double-entry book-keeping tomorrow! Or maybe a patent application for walking while chewing gum? I understand the property-rights theorists’ justifications for strong appropriation regimes, but there has to be some limit to what can be appropriated. Oil field unitization is one thing, but at this rate, I will soon be able to patent Justin Bieber’s hairstyle and voice as a “business process.” I’m reminded of this fine piece of news reporting:

    Where is the adult supervision in this playground? The patent examiners on this IBM patent are listed as V. Millin and Geoffrey Akers. I’d like to have these patent examiners speak at ACAC to explain why this is patentable. Would you guys be interested in seeing that? Maybe Stu Graham could make that happen for us.

    Also, maybe Anne-Marie could speak to this issue, since she has a business-process patent:

    Joe, are you out there? Please provide the “voice of reason” on this…

    That’s all for my rant du jour.


  2. Chen says:

    So, should we cite these patents or journal articles while we’re writing something about capabilities?

  3. teppo says:


    It would be great to have those examiners out to ACAC – would be quite interesting to learn more about what precisely in these types of processes (frameworks etc) is patentable. You’re right – a bit out of hand!

    Well, on the other hand, perhaps the SMS certification process could be patented – https://strategyprofs.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/strategic-analysis-of-strategist-certification/

  4. srp says:

    Very narrow patents of this type probably aren’t a problem. The trouble comes when Amazon can patent the very idea of one-click purchases, or if Michael Porter were allowed to patent five forces analysis.

    Generally I would favor more aggressive use of the obviousness test, with proof of independent invention constituting prima facie evidence of that. But as a non-expert in the area, which can get pretty subtle pretty quickly, I am aware that there might be unintended consequences of such a regime.

  5. […] The most recently issue of Yale Law Journal has a nice piece by Jonathan Masur on patent inflation (here’s the pdf).  There’s no question the system is broken: patent thickets are a problem, anticommons are an issue, and some patents are plain ridiculous. […]

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