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Thumbtack seems to have patented their business model (link to patent is below). Is it possible to patent a general business idea like this? Is it not possible to build a similar business in the US? Thanks

Thumbtack patent

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Ideas aren't patentable. Specific implementations may be. What a patent protects is defined by its claims. To infringe on a claim, you must implement each and every step in the claim. Thus, short claims are typically considered broad and long claims are considered narrow since it is easier to avoid some aspect. There are two independent claims in the cited patent. They are both very long. Here is claim 1.

  1. A machine-readable storage medium that provides instructions that, if executed by a processor, will cause said processor to perform operations for a trusted localized peer-to-peer services marketplace, the operations comprising:

    receiving a search query from a potential service buyer, the search query including a plurality of parameters;

    parsing the search query to identify the plurality of parameters, the plurality of parameters at least including a category of service wanted and a location where the service wanted is desired;

    searching an available services database based on the plurality of parameters of the search query, wherein the available services database is populated with available services provided by a plurality of service sellers, wherein each one of the service sellers has a service seller profile for the trusted localized peer-to-peer services marketplace that is associated with at least the following:

    that service seller offers, contact information for that service seller,

    a location of the service seller,

    and a location where the service offered by the service seller is provided,

    and a set of one or more reviews submitted by one or more other service buyers;

    transmitting one or more notifications to one or more service sellers that offer a service that matches at least the category of service wanted and the location where the service wanted is desired based on a result of the searching of the available services database; and

    communicating, to the potential service buyer, information regarding one or more service sellers that match at least the category of service wanted and the location where the service wanted is desired based on a result of the searching of the available services database, wherein the communicated information includes, for each of the one or more services sellers that match at least the category of service wanted and the location where the service wanted is desired, at least the following:

    the description of the service that service seller offers,

    contact information for that service seller, the location of the service seller,

    the location where the service offered by the service seller is provided,

    and a rating of that service seller that is based on the set of reviews submitted by the one or more other service buyers including a total number of reviews of that service seller, a number of negative reviews of that service seller, a number of neutral reviews of that service seller, and a number of positive reviews of that service seller; wherein negative reviews are given a score less than neutral reviews, wherein neutral reviews are given a score less than positive reviews, wherein a first portion of the set of reviews that are made earlier in time as compared to a second portion of the set of reviews is weighed less heavily in the rating of that service seller,

    wherein the first portion of the set of reviews is given a value at least based on,

    a sum of, the score given for the number of negative reviews of the first portion of the set of reviews, the score given for the number of neutral reviews of the first portion of the set of reviews, and the score given for the number of positive reviews of the first portion of the set of reviews, and

    that sum divided by the number of reviews of the first portion of the set of reviews,

    wherein the second portion of the set of reviews is given a value at least based on,

    a sum of, the score given for the number of negative reviews of the second portion of the set of reviews, the score given for the number of neutral reviews of the second portion of the set of reviews, and the score given for the number of positive reviews of the second portion of the set of reviews,

    that sum divided by the number of reviews of the second portion of the set of reviews, and

    wherein the rating of that service seller incorporates the value given to the first portion of the set of reviews and the value given to the second portion of the set of reviews.

Excuse the formatting as it doesn't allow all the indents necessary. Claim 8 is similarly long.

This is possibly the longest and most complicated claim I have ever read. You could, for instance, implement a different score ranking system than what is described and potentially avoid infringement. Please be advised that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

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