Christopher hayes, the president of RIS Legal Services Inc., in Washington, D.C., is pondering an issue that until recently he might not have been able to consider. Is his Web site, at Court Express, eligible for a patent?

The site claims to offer “a revolutionary way to manage your court information needs” by searching litigation dockets and filings in U.S. district and bankruptcy courts. Results are delivered by e-mail to subscribers, who pay $200 per firm, plus $5 a search. Courtexpress, says Mr. Hayes, is the only site that tracks pending federal cases with a common, Web-based interface and e-mail service. New? Nonobvious? Patentable?

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