Patent educational program No. 6. Why are patents not protected?


We continue to systematically expand the knowledge base on patents. Today we'll talk about what can

turn around a large number of patents.

As we already know, a patent is a securitya document that gives the exclusive right to produce a patented product. No one can, without an agreement with the patent owner, use patented developments for profit. For personal use please. But only without commercial benefit. Here, it must be admitted, the law goes towards garage masters. Not only is the patent actually an instruction for production, describing in detail the problem to be solved, the description also contains a formulated technical result with embodiments of the patented object.

Let's remember a few tips for developers,that have been heard before in one form or another. First, you need to know the patent landscape in the industry where you work. Secondly, by studying the patent landscape, it is necessary to find a way to improve the devices and methods patented by competitors. Thirdly, having patented your product, you can not stop. Patent applications for any variation must continue to be filed so that the current performance of anything is always protected. This is a typical scheme for a patent strategy. And there is nothing wrong with her. Once upon a time, an engineer came up with something ingenious, developed a sought-after product based on this idea, and for the next few years legally exploits the original idea. It is easy to imagine such a product, if we recall a well-known example with a common name. This is the famous "Singer" patent. The irony is that, judging by the database of the patent office, Singer did not receive such a patent, but as an assumption, we close our eyes to this.

So Singer. I think many people remember the manual sewing machines that our grandmothers were proud of (someone already has great-grandmothers).

As I remember now, how, until late at night, women inour family sewed dresses, aprons, or hemmed the peasants with new trousers. There were two options for turning the eccentric of the sewing machine: by pressing the pedal with your foot or by turning the wheel with the handle by hand.

The rotation of the eccentric set the needle in motion.She punched a hole in the fabric by threading a thread through it. And under the fabric, a shuttle rotated, which caught this thread and threaded another thread through the loop formed. It looks like this:

And despite the fact that since the creation of the firstMore than two centuries have passed since the sewing machine, the principle of its operation has not changed. That is, the key element in the form of a needle with an eyelet at the end continues to be used today.


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Now imagine that you are the inventor of thisthe needle itself. Any sewing machine will use it one way or another. Mechanical control eventually turned into electrical control, liquid crystal displays appeared on the case, and the number of options for possible seams increased. And the needle with the eye at the end still remained. This example gave the concept of the "Singer" patent its name. It consists in the invention and patenting of a small and insignificant (at first glance) structural element or assembly, without which, however, the operation of the main device is impossible.

The example of a needle shows that for a couple of centuriesengineers are refining sewing machines, adding new features and improving existing ones. And during this time, more than 100 thousand patents have accumulated related to the development and development of all kinds of sewing devices. And although there is no alternative to sewing machines yet, it is not difficult to imagine what would happen if one suddenly appeared. For example, something like this:

Yes, it doesn't look perfect, but it's like3D printed and handmade sculpture. In traditional sewing, you must first cut the fabric into pieces of the desired shape in accordance with the pattern, and then sew them together. Here, everything will cost a thread of the required quality and color. Plus, the product will be seamless.

That is, if there is a working technology thatsells well and is actively improved by engineers by introducing innovations of all stripes - do not ignore alternative development options. But if sewing machines are still safe, then there is an example that unambiguously confirms the above arguments.

This is an illustration from Kodak's patent for"A disposable camera with a removable adjustment wheel for winding and ejecting the film spool." The keywords here are "film reel". Once upon a time, Kodak was a leader in photography. Canon and Nikon now rule the ball (they don't have long left), but at the end of the last century it was difficult to imagine that Kodak would be on the sidelines. It's all about this very coil:

This device was, in fact, the same "flash drive"with pictures, which today is used to store footage in digital cameras. And if we draw a parallel, then the patent for the film reel is the same "Singer" patent. And indeed. The cameras of that time were very diverse, but, nevertheless, they could not get away from this simple film reel. There were devices with manual and automatic rewind, retractable lenses, protected cases for shooting underwater, and so on. However, they all took pictures by illuminating the corresponding frame on the film.

The process of transferring a photograph from film tophotographic paper was also very peculiar, and many preferred to make such pictures on their own by contacting a printing point. Somehow I visited one of the oldest districts of Chelyabinsk and came across a real time capsule. Above the entrance to a small shop hung a large sign made of cloudy Plexiglas with internal illumination. The sign featured the Kodak logo. Looked it up out of curiosity. Photocopies and passport photos were made in the salon. Previously, there was a full-fledged printing salon, film and photo albums were sold. People were scurrying back and forth with sealed A4 paper bags with film. And there were thousands of such "salons". And after all, Kodak earned not only on the large-scale production of film and cameras. The film developing and photo printing machines themselves were also the sphere of their interests:


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Kodak's patent portfolio in those years couldenvy any modern IT giant. However, digital technologies have brought down the arrogance of the sleepy monopolist. And we all know how it ended. A similar situation happened with Polaroid.

They are another example of the fact that focusing solely on one technology and a lot of patents is not always the key to success. Here's what Polaroid founder Edwin Land had to say about his company:

“The only thing that keeps us alive is our exclusivity. And the only thing that protects our exclusivity is patents.”

And it is this view that is the problem.today's business leaders. There is a famous saying about smart people and other people's mistakes. So, she and the history of Kodak and Polaroid have to be often remembered when seeking advice on the management of intellectual property. The most effective "treatment" in such a situation, no matter how strange it may sound, is harmfulness. Now I will explain.

Imagine that you have a company withthoughtful, successful product. Production is debugged, suppliers do not fail, the conveyor does not stand idle. All departments report progress. Consumer loyalty is above the clouds, demand is ahead of supply, etc. In such a situation, it is difficult to think critically. And this is very necessary. And the simplest thing is hiring a harmful employee who would not agree with the general relaxation from success. Its tasks include criticism of the technical solutions implemented in the product (even if it is very successful). This motivates engineers not only to develop a slightly updated lineup, but also to think about conceptual transformations.

The bloated patent portfolio trapmore widespread than it might seem at first glance. Mainly because today's engineers are unimaginative and solve technical problems inherited from the old-timers. However, there is a second reason. It consists in the fear of company management to lose a cash cow. Just as Toyota deliberately makes the exterior of its Prius hybrid, to put it mildly, for an amateur (although the latter, in my opinion, is quite good) so as not to eat off sales from Camry, Kodak once pushed back the development of its engineer, who developed a digital camera. Fearing for the collapse of their business model, they closed the project and banned it from being shown.

And if you try to look at the situationimpartially, similar analogies can be found today. Displays and projectors. Optics and algorithms. Photoshop and Midjourney. I know that the latter work great in combination, but I think you understand me.

That is why the main advice that can be givenboth the engineer and the head of a company with a successful title product comes down to the saying about eggs and a basket. You feel that your production is becoming in a near-monopoly position - urgently look for an alternative use for your capacities or form a team to develop a new product. Don't rely on patents. The giants don't need them as much as they seem. But new ideas, on the contrary, are needed like air. And not just the giants.

Bold ideas, great inventions and successful products. Good luck!

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