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Engineering Fields - Systems Engineering - New Member South Africa - Member - New Member

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Intellectual Property

06/22/2007 3:31 AM

HI all,

To protect intellectual property, you can follow two distinct paths, namely keep it secret, do not tell a soul (and probably not make a cent) or patent it and get government to help to protect your idea.

We have a big discussion going regarding the second option. We (i.e. our company) have registered a patent and are now doing the engineering and research to make it viable. However, many people (management) still feel we have to keep our knowledge a secret. They go through immense lengths to prevent people from accessing information, to such an extent, that it makes life difficult for us engineers trying to design "known" equipment. We are not allowed to talk to suppliers without them signing huge secrecy agreements and that wastes a lot of time.

So here comes my question and this is my opinion, please confirm what I say .

As far as I am aware, if you patent something, any knowledgeable person must be able to apply that patent and make it work. It does not mean it has to be economic, or well done, but he must be able to apply it. Now, if you consider Leonardo da Vinci's designs, he built in fatal flaws in his designs to, what I believe, to prevent competitors from applying his designs. Thus is you patent something and keep something out, or build in a fatal flaw, you work against the system and actually prevent any knowledgeable person of applying the idea.

The idea to register a patent is to get government to help you protect the idea, but also to be able to make $$$$$$$. If your patent cannot be applied by anyone but yourself, why patent the idea in the first place?

I hope I am making myself clear enough. Are there anyone out there with the applicable experience or knowledge to give me the ammunition I need to convince the powers to be that they wasting their time and money.

Regards,

TC

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United States - Member - USA Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - Never enough money

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#1

Re: Intellectual Property

06/22/2007 4:05 PM

A patent attorney would be the best option and I would have expected your Sr management would have done this already (assuming you have attorneys). If they haven't then they need to, while many here at CR4 are very knowledgeable about such subjects I doubt that they would say much more than I have, then again I could be wrong.

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#2

Re: Intellectual Property

06/23/2007 8:54 AM

If you can't afford to defend it, a patent is worthless!

Confidentiallity agreements, worthless unless you have the lawyers to go with them!

secerecy is probably cheaper than lawyers

Anyone can use the ideas, only when they try to market those ideas do you have any legal recourse.

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#7
In reply to #2

Re: Intellectual Property

06/23/2007 12:38 PM

A friend said the very same thing about defense; his patent was later called 'voice-mail' w/ MaBell as adversary.

So, i've given it a bit of thought (being in pursuit of a patent myself):

As a last ditch method, i would license the patent to the infringer's largest competitor for cheap, and let their solicitors have at it.

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#3

Re: Intellectual Property

06/23/2007 9:04 AM

In electronics, I've always found that removing identifying ic numbers and adding superfluous one to the pcb to confuse anyone trying to copy it, is quite effective...

However, if you then pot it in epoxy resin its almost impossible for someone to copy it, and its cheaper than a patent!!

The whole idea of a patent is to make it available in the public domain... i.e. you can't patent something if you've already published details of it...

John.

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#4

Re: Intellectual Property

06/23/2007 10:47 AM

To my knowledge there is nothing in the patent laws or process that requires the patent be usable to everyone. (The infamous, "those skilled in the art"). The only purpose of a patent is to formally and legally protect intellectual property thereby making it more difficult for anyone else to copy that idea or design. If they do (and one has the resources to defend a patent) the offending party, if found guilty of patent infringement, may be required to cease, pay monetary damages or license the property from the patent holder.

There are two schools of thought on patents. One is to patent everything possible and prosecute infringers. The problem is that it is very difficult to write an airtight patent that cannot be designed around. If the intellectual property or idea is truly revolutionary and unique, a patent may only assist or encourage potential competitors by reducing their time to market. I'm not sure what the situation is today but the numbers I've read in the past indicate that a well-written patent may actually reduce competitive time to market by half.

I hold several patents but some of most valuable IP developed by my colleagues and me while working for a major corporation were never patented for that reason.

Another problem with patents is they are not universally recognized. They are expensive to obtain and maintain and must be filed in every country in which one wishes to obtain patent protection.

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#5

Re: Intellectual Property

06/23/2007 10:50 AM

I do not know where to begin to answer your question. The requirments for gaining a Patent are well known, and includes Novelty, Inventive Step and Industrial Applicability. From my experience of taking ideas through to Patents, which includes the USPTO, I cannot support your aim to convince anyone not to Patent an idea without knowing what the idea is and what the market potential is for the idea. The real asset in the Patent comes from the main independent claim(s) in the Patent as granted / issued and not from the disclosure in the drawings, which are intended to be illustrative and possibly intended to give away as little as possible. If you manufacture anything new without a Patent, the underlying concepts can be copied and competitors can use you to open up a new market for them.

In terms of being able to 'exploit' the invention in the market place, this is where equal but different skills are required and that is a key issue. There are many 'rip off artists' about, and if you do not have Patent for a new idea you may be handing the busines opportunity to others 'on a plate'.

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#6

Re: Intellectual Property

06/23/2007 12:24 PM

T4T,

I am a licensed engineer and licensed patent agent in the U.S. Below in quotes is an excerpt from another recent posting of mine on another CR4 thread: (http://cr4.globalspec.com/thread/9113#comment81639) It is written in the context of the U.S. patent system, but I think it applies in general to most patent systems.

"Regarding our patent system. A patent is not a one-sided deal that just benefits the inventor or assignee company. There is a major aspect of it that is in the public interest, which many people don't realize. A patent is the grant by the government of a limited monopoly. It is limited in time - in the U.S., to 20 years from the filing date of the patent application. The monopoly is the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, or importing the invention in the U.S. during this 20 year period.

In return for the grant of this limited monopoly, the public gets something in return. What is that? By law (35 U.S.C. 112), in order to be granted the patent, the inventor must provide a clear, concise written description that teaches one of "ordinary skill in the art" how to make and use the invention, including the best mode of doing so. At the end of the 20-year monopoly, therefore, the public is then free to practice the invention, and it has the recipe to do so. This two-way "deal" has made our patent system one of the largest searchable repositories of scientific and technical literature in the world."

Now, with regard to da Vinci's "fatal flaw" trick that you cite, and applying that to a patent application. I don't know about South Africa, but in the U.S., including a "fatal flaw" would be a clear violation of law (35 U.S.C. 112), which has the written description requirements (enablement, best mode) as described above. One might succeed in getting a patent with a "fatal flaw" included, but if it were ever litigated, that would likely come out, and it would be found invalid and unenforceable. So an honest person would never do that, and no ethical patent practitioner would ever advise or be a party to it.

Lastly, a comment about enforcing a patent. You use the phrase "get the government to help you protect the idea." Again, I don't know about South Africa, but in the U.S., the extent of the "help" by the government is to grant the patent, i.e. the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, etc. There are no government patent police patrolling for infringers. It is the patent owner's responsibility to enforce his/her/its patent. That can sometimes mean litigation, and that costs money. Lots of money.

And yes, there are unscrupulous people and companies out there that steal ideas and willfully infringe patents with the expectation that it will cost too much to challenge them. But by and large, our patent system protects and serves both the public interest, inventors, and their companies - and as technology changes, the laws are adapted to suit. If it did not, it would not have withstood the test of time, and the volume of patent applications and issued patents in the U.S. and worldwide would not be growing as it clearly is.

Regards,

J Hammond

www.patent-innovations.com

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Associate
Engineering Fields - Systems Engineering - New Member South Africa - Member - New Member

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#11
In reply to #6

Re: Intellectual Property

06/25/2007 2:26 AM

Hi

Thanks to all that made the effort to answer or try to answer, and to give advice and add experience. All of you are correct in one way or the other, but mostly you have given me ideas. The one thing that really came out is that not any of the routes will be fool proof, and your ability to stay ahead of the pack is your competitive advantage. And no patent or secrecy will keep you there, you just have to work your butt off and stay ahead.

Thanks especially to jhammond for the "fatal flaw is a clear violation of law" comment, I WILL use that one soon . Also Wangito for the argument about the "improved" patent idea.

I really enjoy reading most of the posts, keep me sane and let me forget about the lawyers running the show . Which is not true really, it is the finance guys (main director responsible for our Business unit is Financially trained and have no engineering background).

Greetings,

TC

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Associate

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#8

Re: Intellectual Property

06/23/2007 7:13 PM

There are lots of expert opinions voiced in this forum...some excellent, some leave a little to be desired.

Mr Hammond in post #6 is in the former group. I dont know him at all, indeed I am in Australia, but this is exactly the type of stuff that I really enjoy.

My thanks to J.Hammond.

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#10
In reply to #8

Re: Intellectual Property

06/24/2007 7:40 PM

Skippy, thank you for your kind comment. G'day mate.

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#9

Re: Intellectual Property

06/24/2007 2:12 PM

Your problem is that at your company , lawyers are running the show, and not engineers. Although patents could provide some protection, ANY idea can be copied No patent in the world will protect you against intellectual property theft. Building-in some fatal mistake, is nonsense, as applying any change, be it the smallest one, is already enough to make it a different product,no more protected by your patent. and furthermore it will be without the "fatal mistake", hence a better product.

The following is the formula: The simplest the invention is, the more secrecy and protection you will need. From what you are saying , it looks as if your invention falls into the first group. If really commercially viable, it will immediately be copied anyhow, reverse engineered, or simply Chinese copied.

What to do? massive marketing, at elevated price, and once your competitors are in the market you will be in a position or, to kill them price wise or just walk away with some nice profits.

My 0 cents business plan...

Wangito.

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Anonymous Poster
#12

Re: Intellectual Property

06/25/2007 1:14 PM

Howzit TC, (sorry, couldn't help the coloquial greeting :-)

As mentioned "the government" won't help you protect your patent-- you have to do that and it costs a lot so any extra time you can buy from secrecy gives you more potential sales before you are copied. By then you may have made enough money or been bought out so you can defend your patents. It is also expensive to patent in all the major markets and you have only a year from the first filing so you want to generate revenue within a year to pay for all the extra countries.

Patent law varies from one country to another. In one French case I found, the patent left out one key chemical in the production process (a Da Vinci "flaw") which violates the quid pro quo of the patent bargain but the French appeal court said that imperfection of the result of a patent description is not grounds for invalidity.

I suggest you use maximum secrecy, get to market fast, find a big customer for the product or buyer for your patents/company. The only 2 things certain in the patent game are 1) small fish can't afford the ante 2) lawyers always win.

cheers, d

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#13

Re: Intellectual Property

06/26/2007 12:31 PM

I'm not sure what you mean by seeking government help to patent your invention: your national patent office or to get some funding from public money?

Getting professional help is the best answer to your question. However, you should also be aware that after filing a patent application, the preliminary examination assess the possible if not stated applications in national defense or national security domains. This is one reason for which you are not allowed to patent an invention abroad but first nationally. There were cases when the government gave some money to the applicant or paid for working with them and channeled the invention to complete secrecy and undisclosed applications. If this is the case, you'll learn that very soon!

You also have to know that by paying an additional fee to the patent office, the applicant may opt for non-publishing.

By your description of the situation there, if you're not the inventor or one of the inventors, try to stay as far as possible from people involved in this potentially harmful story.

Keep yourself safe!

It's just an opinion. Discard it if seems worthless to you.

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Users who posted comments:

Anonymous Poster (2); Bluestone (1); Electroman (1); Garthh (1); Hottech (1); jhammond (2); Richard L (1); sidevalveguru (1); skippy (1); T4T (1); wangito (1)

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