Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes.
The importance of engineering and modern human history cannot be discounted. From James Watt’s steam engine, the ancient printing presses of the Chinese, to the most ingenious inventions of the 20th century such as electricity, auto mobiles, bridges, air travel and architectural ingenuity are all the result of engineering innovation. Patterns in engineering may relate to simple devices such as hammers, dental floss dispensing devices, and moulded plastic containers to more complex inventions such as turbocharger devices, medical devices, torque converters, vehicle lighting and mirrors, satellite deployment mechanisms, engine air flow management procedures and processes etc.
In addition to protecting the mechanical article itself, patterns can be filed and prosecuted for methods of manufacture of the devices as well as methods of using an controlling the mechanical devices, in certain jurisdictions. Further, all manufacturing processes, for example, metal working and treatment, printing, textile manufacturing, etc. are regarded under mechanical patents.
The future of mechanical means, like those of business methods of those relating to the Internet and e-commerce, is uniformly bright in various sectors including automotive, robotics, printing technology, textiles and manufacturing.
Are patent expensive?
Most SMEs in the manufacturing sector consider that the inexpensive and difficult task. Embarking on a road to innovation and patenting could in certain cases lead the company to spend vast sums of money on research and development, patent office fees, attorneys professional fees, renewal fees and then spend virtually endless amounts of money litigating with infringers, but there are other alternatives.
The way to limit IP costs is to be very judicious with a protection mechanism that you intend to use. Some ideas are:
Protect trade secrets: if disclosure has the effect of educating a competitor and how the invention is to be built or used, it is better not to disclose the invention. Secondly, if it is impossible to detect infringement, the invention or idea is properly not appropriate for patenting. Trade secrets must be protected with clear policies of disclosure on a need-to-know basis within and outside the company.
2. Protect the ideas with the highest priority: it is not necessary to protect every detectable idea. Often only one or two key ideas would have to be infringed by the competitor in order to copy the bulk of the product. Even if there are many patentable innovations in the product, it may be important to identify those with the highest priority and protect them.
3. Reducing the preparation cost: do as much research as possible into the prior art, including Internet searches, patent searches, and research competitor’s products. Define the differences between the invention and the prior art. Define the exact features that need to be covered from a competitive standpoint as well as a functional standpoint. This definition will be further refined by the patent professional during the patent preparation and prosecution stages.
4. Have a business plan: prosecute only those parties which have strategic importance for your company, and will help you to overcome competition. If the patent or idea that you have is not crucial to the core business of your company, look for licensing opportunities.
5. Find a firm that suits your needs: the biggest falls may not have time for smaller clients or price their services very high. It also not give priority to small companies or individual inventors. For budgeting and management purposes, consider hiring a firm that gives fixed fee quotes as opposed to paying by the hour. The former method encourages the firm to be efficient and constrains the costs, while the second method is often abused at the expense of the client.
Also preparing and filing your own patent and prosecuting it in-house may be less expensive initially, it may prove costly as there are considerable risks involved in filing and prosecuting applications without a trained professional. This is a decision you would have to make based on your understanding of the in-house skills and competences required prosecuting your patent.
6. Follow the process: the longer it takes for the preparation and filing of your patent, the longer it will take to launch a product on the market. There would be delays such as in identifying specific threats from the competition and analysing prior art, however once these crucial steps are done it is essential to keep the timeline prescribed by your attorney. It may help to decide in advance who the applicant of the patent is in India, it is possible for the promoter of a company to file the patent and subsequently license it to the company. However in the US, it is essential for the inventor to be the applicant.
7. Monitoring of the patent: this includes delays in prosecution, other steps such as filing of patents under the patent cooperation Treaty or Paris Convention treaty, and staying up-to-date on the timelines. Failure to keep to the timelines may prove fatal to the prosecution and in many cases. One example is, the Indian patent office requires the filing of a request for examination within four years of the filing of the application. Failure to file a request for examination within four years would result in the application being treated as abandoned by the patent office.
8. Enforcement of the patent: the first of an endorsement of the patent is vigilance. The cost of enforcing a patent is very high whether in India or in any other country. It is essential for any pattern to be aware that if this product is going to succeed in the market you will be competition. One way to avoid the disastrous consequences of cheap counterfeit products in the market is to build a brand that is recognisable and trusted by the consumers. A constant innovation model may also help in keeping the patent is invention ahead of the competition in the market.
Getting a strong mechanical patent
A strong mechanical patent is one that solves a crucial problem for the consumer and a significantly different from all other solutions provided in the prior art. Primary in the attempt to get a strong mechanical patent is keeping ahead of the technology, and keeping abreast of the evolving technology trend in academia and industry.
Many small companies in India are tying up with governmental and private universities, research establishments and incubation centres in order to acquire new technologies "hot off the oven". Technology from universities and integration centres with the cheaper to acquire than licensing the same technology from industry. However, they may require industrial level scaling up, or further development which will be an expensive proposition small company. The government offers several grants, soft loans and integration opportunities to translate academic technology development into industrial inventions.
The MSME ministry, the Department of biotechnology, the Department of industry and science and the various directorates at state level can help with these initiatives.
Copyright Swapna Sundar, 2012