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Patenting Fitness Programs?


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Personal fitness is an ever-expanding and developing industry. The newest and best fitness program is a highly sought out commodity that could transform the developer’s wallet into a weight-training device. Interestingly, there exists a patent (U.S. Patent No. 6,945,911) claiming a method of prescribing a fitness program. The first claim reads:

A method for prescribing a fitness programs for a person comprising the steps of: establishing a plurality of body types based on the shape of the body of the person: classifying the body of the person into one of said plurality body types; establishing a fitness level and a fitness goal for the person: and based on the body type classification, fitness level and fitness goal of the person,

prescribing a first aerobic routine for the person to perform;

prescribing a first upper body routine for the person to perform;

prescribing a second aerobic routine for the person to perform; and

prescribing a first abdominal routine for the person to perform.

The claim scope seems to be fairly broad. An argument could be made that personal trainers all over the country have infringed and are continuing to infringe this patent. That being said, I am fairly confident that any attempt to assert this patent would ultimately lead to this patent being invalidated. 

The claimed method seems to only describe a series of mental steps and arguably fails to qualify as patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. 101. The application was filed in 2001 and the patent was issued in 2005. The time frame may explain why the application was not rejected under 35 U.S.C. 101. Arguably, section 101 has historically lacked clarity in defining patentable subject matter. However, in recent years, several judicially recognized exceptions to patentable subject matter were expressly established. One of those cases, Ultramercial v. Hulu, 657 F.3d 1323, 1329, 100 USPQ2d 1140,1145 (Fed. Cir. 2011), specifically held that a series of purely mental steps does not qualify as patentable subject matter. If an application were submitted today claiming the process described above, I have my doubts that a patent would be awarded. 

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