James, the best way to overcome patent restrictions is addressing the drawbacks or negative aspects of the patented design/product. This will help for obtaining a new patent, which is superior to the existing one. That can also brings more market values.
Rob, patenting the technology has both advantage and disadvantage. The advantage is patenting will help them for full right over the design or products, so misuse can be avoided and they will get royalty to use their products or designs. But at the same time it will restrict others to continue research in similar direction, they are forces to rethink or redirect their efforts to some other directions.
Roy Grumman used two paper clips and a drafting eraser to come up with the concept for the folding wings on the US Navy F4F Wildcat fighter during WW2...the eraser/paperclip model was on display in Bethpage Long Island at one time.
You must remember one foundational point about patents that is almost always misunderstood by the general public: Patents are a defense element to protect the core element; the core being, a profitable business model – in whatever business you may choose.
Too often, patent blogs and message boards are covered with people's inquiries and disappointment regarding developing, filing, processing, and actually getting patents. None of this makes you money, and on the contrary is extremely expensive.
The patent is to defend the money-making idea. Additionally, you can turn a defensive patent into an offensive element, by marketing it as a license to your potential competition. But its still a secondary tool (defensive or offensive) to the primary element – the profitable business plan.
All too often, people think getting a patent will make them rich. Trust me, NOT true. I have 23.
I use the Gem paper clip as an example of how advances in material science change how problems can be solved. It was the advances in wire making that made it possible to form the Gem at the time it was invented. Prior to that it was pins that were used. I for one don't believe we are any smarter than the inventors of the past. We just have a better portfolio of materials and a larger knowledge base to choose from. For the inventors of the Gem, they finally had a wire they could bend at a small enough radius to make their paper clip. I'm sure they didn't drive the material science, but they knew how to use it when it came.
I find the concept of creating a patent as a private citizen extremely daunting. The economics of performing a patent search and all the aspects of generating economic return on an unproven design are difficult. I can make a device to perform very intricate tasks using my normal iterative process and when I have the performance I want, I'll put it to work doing the job it was designed for and go on to the next task. Perhaps wrongly, I regard the application for and issuance of a patent as a luxury. I know some outstanding machinists, mechanics and electronics whizes, mechanical and electronic engineers who daily use potentially patentable devices who had they taken the time to patent, would have starved waiting for the process to work. Perhaps I'll create the next great thing and I'll meet the right person at the right time and have the money and good luck to find it's patentable and I'll get a patent to put on the wall and actually find someone with the capacity and capitol to risk making a bunch of them to sell. Or, I could continue making paper-clip-equivalents and hope for the best.
What's surprising to me is how inventors of the day were able to perfect the paper clip's performance with (what I assume) was so little knowledge of theoretical and applied mechanics and material science. Did the clip's inventors pay attention to characteristics such as strain hardening when they chose the material and the shape? Or to the elastic modulus or the flexural strength of the material? Or was the patent art based on seat-of-the-pants conclusions?
It's odd, no matter how new your idea is, there is probably prior art that is the same thing. I am dealing with this concept on a hand full of projects I am working on. But, as a friend of mine suggested, I am adding "patent defeating holes" to my designs. Features that will make it different from all the others in question. Underhanded, but what can I say... I want to see my ideas come to fruition.
Good point, Mydesign. It's interesting, though, to see the patent wars over smart phones and tablets. Patent owners in this territory have been able to win substantial gains by calling their competitors on technology theft. The wins have included both money and bans from selling the offending product in specific countries. These wars have given me a whole new respect for the value of a patent.
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