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Invention and Patent – One way of adding value to a product

In an increasingly knowledge‐driven economy, you invariably need creative or inventive ideas or concepts to improve an existing feature, add a  useful  new  feature to your product or develop a totally  new  product.  If  your  business  develops such an idea or concept that solves a technical problem in  an  unexpectedly new or better  way  then  it  should  take  adequate  and  timely  steps to protect its creative idea, concept or knowledge  by  converting  it  into  a  proprietary technical advantage by patenting it.

More Reference 11: How to invent

Many people seem to think that a flash of inspiration or genius is necessary          to spark creativity or inventions or that it invariably involves major scientific discoveries or great research and technological development in big public or corporate R & D laboratories or  research‐based  universities.  Even  in  the  United States of America, till 1930,  individual  inventors  outnumbered  every  other category in terms of  number  of  patents  granted  by  the  US  Patent  Office. For the first time, in  1931,  U.S.  corporations  received  more  patents  than U.S. individual inventors  did  and  their  lead  has  kept  widening  ever  since.

It must be noted that most of the patented inventions are  not  major  breakthroughs but  incremental  though  non‐obvious  technical  improvements over the relevant prior art. Also, some famous inventions represented only a modest advance in  fundamental  technology  and  were  made  by  ordinary people or individual  inventors.  In  fact,  some  famous  inventions  were  based  on a chance discovery, insight or a mere accident that produced unexpected results that were not only noticed by a prepared  mind  but  also  put  to  a  practical business use by the same or another person.

For example, in the 1940’s, on returning home after walking his dog in the mountains, Swiss inventor George de Mestral noticed that  his  dog  and  his  pants were covered with seeds called ‘burrs’. On taking a closer look  at  the  seeds under the microscope, he recognized the potential for a new fastener based on the natural hook‐like shapes on  the  surface  of  burrs.  Initially,  his  idea was met with resistance.  But  he  persisted  in  refining  his  invention  by  trial and error over eight years.  He  finally  realized  that  nylon  when  sewn  under infrared light formed tough hooks for the burr side of the fastener. He perfected his invention while working  along  with  a  weaver from  a  textile  plant in France and  patented  it  in  1955.  Eventually,  he  had  developed  two  strips  of nylon fabric, one containing thousands of  small  hooks,  just  like  the  burrs, and the other with soft loops, just like the fabric of his  pants.  When  the  two  strips were pressed  together,  they  formed  a  strong  bond,  but  one  that's  easily separated, lightweight, durable, and washable. This is how Velcro  was born. The inventor went on to establish Velcro  Industries  to  manufacture products that were based on his patented invention.

More Reference 12: Improving functionality of a product

1.  Definition of functionality

'Functionality,' that is, technical functionality, may also be described as a useful feature or a performance attribute of an invention, technology or product.

Such a feature may be in  a  new  or  improved  material,  machine,  apparatus, testing or measuring equipment, component  of  a  product, product, or a method  or  process  for  making  any  of  these.  It  could  also  be a new use of  an  existing  material  or  a  new  combination  of  prior  known but separate features that produce an unexpected new result.

So, broadly speaking, technical functionality  of  a  product  refers  to  its  ability to perform a  utilitarian  process,  task  or  activity.  For  example,  it  may provide greater comfort in use, be easier to digest, safer to use, or superior to other products in terms  of  ease  of  disposal,  maintenance,  repair, storage, transport or use.

2.  Inventions made by improving functionality of a product

Any one or more of  such  type  of  functional  characteristics  may  differentiate one product from another.

For improving or creating these types of functional features you would generally need one or more new or improved inventions which may be incorporated into one or more new or improved technologies.

Reference 13: Sources of inventions

1.  From in‐house R&D facilities

If your business has some in‐house research and development (R & D) capability, then it would be creating new  or  improved  technology  or  adapting existing technology to meet your emerging needs.

2.  From the marketing and sales side

Even if your business has no formal R & D facilities, yet some of your employees on the shop floor may be inventing, often  without  realizing  it, while copying competing products or when required making adaptations to your existing products for a variety of reasons. Inventive ideas may  come  from  any part of the  company.  A particularly good place  to find inventions    is on the marketing and sales  side,  who  is  in  touch  with  the  market  trends and emerging needs of  customers,  and  may  come  up  with  technical solutions to such needs.

3.  From outside of the company

However, even when you  have  in‐house  R  &  D  capability,  there  are  many situations in which you may  have  to  look  for  inventions  or  technology from outside your company.

a.  Free source

Sometimes, you may get  it  free,  for  example,  from  the  numerous,  free, and easily  available online patent databases, which include a lot     of technologies that were either not protected at all in your market or       by now their patent protection has  lapsed  or  expired.  As  the  information contained in a patent is free  for  anyone  to  use,  both  directly and indirectly, depending  on  the  patent's  legal  status,  therefore, you  must  always  try  this  route,  before  developing  it in‐house and before looking around to buy it from outside.

Most patent savvy businesses skillfully use patent databases, for  example, to identify opportunities for adapting or acquiring patented inventions, or technologies. Also,  mining  a  patent  database  may provide you with a solid basis for developing new ideas and concepts. However, the availability of  useful  information  in  patent  databases  depends on the nature of your business or industry, as some areas of technology have much more patent activity than others.

b. Licensing

But really useful  new  or  improved  technology  is  generally  not  available free of charge. In order to  get  useful  inventions,  you  may  have to buy or license it from others that are  willing  to  do  so  on  mutually acceptable terms and conditions.

More Reference 14: Identifying inventions

In order to get  a  Patent,  first,  you  have  to  identify  an  invention.  If  you  are  an inventor‐entrepreneur then  it  may  be  easier  for  you  to  identify  an  invention than if it were made  by  one or more  of your employees in  R &  D        or by a shop floor worker who is responsible for making improvements or adaptations to some machine or process in your manufacturing facility or by someone in the marketing department of your business. In fact, you may be surprised to know that not all inventions of great business merit result from expensive R &  D  that  relies  on  high‐tech  equipment  and  considerable expense of time, knowledge, skill and other resources. Often, technicians and other shop floor workers, and sometimes even your staff responsible  for  marketing may make  significant  contributions  to  development  of  an  invention to satisfy an identified market need. In other words, anyone  in  your  own  business or vendors, suppliers,  and  other  business  partners  may  come  up  with new ideas and concepts and help you to reduce it to practice.

For further information, please follow the next contents, explore the world of intellectual property and chances that intellectual property may bring to your enterprise.