When a friend of mine told me a few weeks ago about new regulations allowing companies to patent their business processes, I didn't think too much of it. Except that it sounded highly contentious and somewhat unlikely.

My source, I thought, was misinformed.

I was wrong. First, I heard about Priceline--where some of my old friends from Dow Jones have ended up--patenting their electronic commerce model. Then, last week, Cantor Fitzgerald sued Liberty Brokerage, charging its longtime rival with i

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