Think you've come up with a perfect tax strategy for your high-end clients? Before you go ahead with it, you might want to check if it's been patented. You're liable to be sued for patent infringement if someone else thought of it first.It all started in 1998, when a federal appeals court ruled that business methods could be patented. Since then, more than 60 tax-strategy patents have been granted, and 86 more are pending. And the first infringement suit has been filed over the SOGRAT patent.

The SOGRAT patent, granted by the U.S. Patent Office to Robert C. Slane of Wealth Transfer Group, involved a grantor retained annuity trust, or GRAT, funded with nonqualified stock options. Since GRATs are permitted by the Tax Code, it came as a surprise to many professionals that a patent was granted for a variation of such a common technique.

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