Can teaching methods be patented?


I plan to develop an open-source software application that speaks words in a foreign language while displaying pictures that represent the words. Can teaching methods (such as Rosetta Stone's language immersion software, which also displays a picture of a word while pronouncing the word) be patented? I'm concerned that someone might already have a patent over this method of instruction.

Anderson Green

Posted 2012-10-18T19:08:55.857

Reputation: 221

I am interested in what you are talking about. I have recently done research on similar methods at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. I would like to discuss this further on a one-to-one basis. I have tried to message you directly, but I am new to this site. Send me an email at! - Cody – None – 2013-11-27T21:02:34.743

My opinion is that teaching methods should not be patentable - are they currently patentable within any jurisdiction? – Anderson Green – 2012-10-18T19:18:26.327

I could do this very easily using existing open-source software packages such as festival and node-webkit. I have already created an application that pronounces words and images when they are moused-over. – Anderson Green – 2012-11-18T01:25:44.040



The US patent law does not exclude business methods from patentable subject matter. However, for software and mobile applications requires that the business method works in conjunction with a machine such as a computer or a mobile device. You can check check out the current case law In re Bilski regarding the same about software and business methods.

However, I'm not sure that you will be able to get a grant if you file a patent application before USPTO for an open source software.

Meghana Bhat

Posted 2012-10-18T19:08:55.857

Reputation: 73

I'm interested in knowing whether Rosetta Stone has consistently enforced this patent against their potential competitors. Would I risk being sued if I created a program that used images and words to teach a language, by displaying the words and images at the same time? – Anderson Green – 2012-12-18T18:45:32.953

All I really want to do is create a slideshow that is accompanied by spoken words in a particular language - would this infringe any patents? – Anderson Green – 2012-12-18T18:47:13.517


To directly answer part of your question - yes methods of teaching can be patented. I did a quick search in the class that covers educational devices (434) and had over 5000 hits of patents with the word "method" in at least one claim. Also searched for any patent with both method and teaching in the clam wording. About 1000 hits.

George White

Posted 2012-10-18T19:08:55.857

Reputation: 21 648


As a former teacher and an experienced software developer the method you are talking about sounds obvious so it should not be patentable.

Diego Escalera

Posted 2012-10-18T19:08:55.857

Reputation: 165

Is there any relevant legislation and/or cases concerning this issue? – Anderson Green – 2012-10-18T22:11:08.713

Also, here's the a patent by Rosetta Stone (perhaps not covering simple teaching methods):

– Anderson Green – 2012-10-18T22:18:25.833


There are no particular laws or court decisions on this topic other than those that generally apply to patent law. Many teaching methods have been patented in the context of software and modules. See US 8,272,873 The patentability question is simply whether the idea is new and nonobvious and whether its use can be described in a non-abstract and specific manner.

– Dennis Crouch – 2012-10-19T11:48:26.333

1@DennisCrouch, you should consider making your comment a separate answer. Diego's answer doesn't respond to the specific question, and I think a specific answer would be useful for future viewers. – m3lvn – 2012-10-23T17:08:16.320