> The Power of Patents: Lessons from "The 1900 House"
>THE 1900 HOUSE, a four-part series on PBS last June, explored the
>radical changes in family and domestic life that have occurred over
>the past 100 years through scientific and technological innovations.
>Our patent systems played a major role in these developments.
>Kevin Roe is a patent and trademark attorney with his own law office
>in San Jose. In addition to writing and filing patent applications, he
>also writes opinions on patent validity, patent infringement, and
>patent valuation. Kevin has written patent applications for inventions
>in medical, computer, optical, and mechanical technologies. In addition
>to over 6 years of experience in law, Kevin has over 18 years of education
>and experience as an electrical engineer, including a MSEE from Stanford
>and PhD from UC Davis.
>Kevin will give an overview of the patent process, and then address:
> -Which inventions should actually be patented?
> -Employee & consultant rights to an invention
> -The characteristics of a truly valuable patent
> -The advantages and disadvantages of a patent search
> -Quick and easy ways to permanently lose all your U.S. and foreign patent
Kevin began by explaining that the show illustrated how much stuff has changed in the last 100 years. The show clearly illustrated how they had no refrigeration, no water heater, no electricity, and no washing machines. Because of this all meat had to be cooked and eaten within a day of being acquired or it was lost. There were also many other changes that were brought about by the fact that Patents give inventors a reasonable chance to profit from their inventions.
Kevin is of the opinion that water heaters and washing machines are by far the biggest improvements. Before they came along, women would spend at least a day or two every week just washing clothes for their families. Not only that, but every year in England alone, 2000 children would die from burns gotten from handling the water or fire associated with boiling it. Probably ten times that many of them would be hurt. Laundry machines would not be possible if the patent system had not made it possible to recoup investment costs.
He then launched into a brief description of the patenting process. Patentable inventions are novel, useful, and non-obvious to someone with ordinary skill in the "field of art." Novel means the invention is something that a patent search will not turn up previous examples of. Useful means the patent covers a machine, product, or composition that has value to somebody. Silly, illegal, theoretical, or unsafe inventions are not patentable. If something meets these tests, then a patent application should be filled out with enough detail about the invention so that someone with ordinary skill in the field can reproduce it in a few weeks or months. Once this is done the patent office will decide whether to grant the invention a patent.
Patent rights are easy to lose. An invention is only patentable for one year after first publication of something about it. Applying for a foreign patent on something more than one year before applying for a US patent on it is also grounds for rejecting the application. Public use (except for experimental use) or sale of an invention more than one year before a patent is applied for can also mean it is rejected. Abandoning an invention (stopping all development on it) can also be grounds for patent application rejection. Kevin thinks people should be careful to take advantage of their patent rights before the passage of time evaporates them.
During the Q&A, several interesting ideas surfaced. One of them was that getting a patent generally costs between $5000.00 and $20,000.00. Another was that some large companies like IBM earn as much as a billion dollars a year from patent licensing. Also, 90% of the patents that have been granted in the history of the U.S. were granted in the past 100 years. For more info, Kevin Roe will be teaching an evening course on intellectual property rights at West Valley College, starting tomorrow (Wednesday Feb. 6th) evening.
The idea that Climate Change is a real problem is probably not patentable.