Although Caterpillar is known for its bright yellow construction and mining equipment, the company has announced that it is breaking ground of a different sort by forming a technology licensing group.
"We have more than 7,000 patents," says Bill Berlinger, licensing manager for the Caterpillar corporate licensing program. He explains that the company has many patents that design engineers might not expect: "For example, we have more than 100 patents in global positioning systems."
Only 20 to 30 percent of Caterpillar's worth is in the equipment and factories that the company owns. The rest is intellectual capital.
"We are now in the business of looking at every business relationship and identifying any intellectual property value," says Berlinger. "It may be a licensee, joint venture, acquisition, joint development program, supplier development, or even a marketing relationship."
Advantages of licensing technology include reducing research and development cost, according to Berlinger. "Licensing can also dramatically reduce the time needed for launching a new product," he adds.
Technology licensed by Caterpillar includes position and control software, component simulation software, assembly line technology, testing procedures, and hydraulics. For example, Caterpillar's experience designing hydraulic systems includes the proprietary tools and know-how used for creating the world's largest truck, the CAT 797.
Hydraulics in the CAT 797 provide the muscle needed for carrying up to 360 tons at one time. The 2,000+ employees working in hydraulics adapt the proven hydraulic design for use in other applications. The company's experience also includes creating unique filters, hoses, couplings, and seals.
Caterpillar is directly responsible for the design, development, and application of liquid filters for more than 300 of its own products. The filters work in large equipment like the CAT 797, as well as in small earthmovers and mini-excavators used in confined areas.
Most earthmoving machines are exposed to extremes in heat, cold, humidity, and dusty or sandy conditions. So Caterpillar has proprietary designs and materials for seals that keep hydraulic fluids functioning on equipment that operates around the clock. The company also has hoses and couplings that help flex the hydraulic muscle in areas subjected to extreme vibrations.
Caterpillar plans to license hydraulics and other technology under exclusive and non-exclusive arrangements. In addition to licensing its technology to other companies, Caterpillar may also license products from other companies. "It's not enough to just license your own ideas," says Berlinger. "You must constantly seek out new technology to add value to your products."
For more information about technology licensing from Caterpillar: Enter 536