Which Comes First – The Patent or the Prototype?

Throughout my time helping inventors develop a multitude of different projects, this conundrum has often reared its head. It is important to say from the outset that there is no definitive answer, but I will aim to convey the alternative perspectives, to allow inventors to make an informed choice for themselves. The opinions on this topic vary across professionals in the IP industry and the answer will differ depending on the specific idea.

Having said that, below are the main reasons for developing a prototype before patenting:

  1. A patent application requires a certain level of detail regarding how the idea functions. This is known as ‘sufficiency’ or an ‘enabling disclosure’. It is often easier to describe, and draw, an invention once a prototype has been created and tested.
  2. Prototyping develops the idea and it may be that a new or better solution is achieved. Potentially these iterative developments could require altering the original patent application or filing a new application. This could cost more or result in advantageous changes being left unprotected.
  3. The grace period before substantial fees and important decisions need to be made during the patenting process is quite short, considering the average time it takes to launch a new product onto the market. It could be argued that it is better to progress the idea as much as possible before filing the patent application, including finalising the design through prototyping. This would then allow the grace period to be used for manufacturing or licensing the product.
  4. A prototype can be used to test the market and some people consider that it is best to do this before embarking on a potentially expensive patenting strategy. (Disclosing the idea can prevent a granted patent being achieved and legal advice should be taken on how to test the market without forfeiting potential patenting opportunities. Confidentiality agreements are one way of protecting an idea before a patent application has been filed.)
  5. A prototype may prove that the idea is not viable therefore saving the cost and time involved in drafting and filing a patent application.

Conversely, below are the main reasons to file a patent application before prototyping:

  1. Prototypes often need to be produced by companies and therefore it could be wise to file for the patent first to protect the intellectual property.
  2. If the inventor waits for the prototype to be produced before filing the patent application, someone else may file an application for the same idea first. In many countries of the world, including the UK, the patents systems are ‘first to file’ and not ‘first to invent’.
  3. The patent application process includes a thorough worldwide novelty and inventiveness search by the UK IPO that could reveal valuable prior art material, not only in terms of the direction the prototype should take, but also in terms of potential infringement issues whereby the prototype can then be designed around existing patents.
  4. A patent application and the resulting patent, like all intellectual property, provides an asset which is owned by the inventor or applicant company. If prepared effectively, the patent can be licensed or sold to generate an income stream potentially without ever needing to produce the prototype.
  5. It may be better to start with a patent application if funds are limited, as a patent application is generally cheaper than a prototype.
  6. A ‘provisional’ patent application can be filed without requiring great detail, providing a follow up application is then filed within 12 months which describes the idea in more detail. This may be following the proof of concept provided by the prototype.

There are some ways round these issues. Prototyping manufacturers can be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement before the idea is disclosed. However bear in mind that many companies will not sign confidentiality agreements, since their in-house departments might be working on similar ideas. Pre-application patent searches can be carried out prior to prototyping or patenting to discover whether it is sensible to proceed without having to draft and file an application.

There is a third perspective for consideration. Some industry experts would suggest that it’s not a patent or prototype that should come first but the opinion of industry experts as to whether the idea is viable and will sell. They would argue that the prototype and patent are important parts of the process but, at the very beginning, it’s best to ascertain that there is actually a market before investing in either a patent or prototype.

In conclusion, the best way to proceed with any new product idea is a complex decision. If the novel functionality of the idea is unproven, then a prototype may be a sensible first step. It is worth ensuring that a reputable company is used to produce the prototype and that a confidentiality agreement is signed prior to the concept being revealed. Alternatively, the inventor may choose to file a patent application first and accept that additional cost may be incurred to re-file or amend the application as the project is developed.

Fuji Newest 4.0 Road Bike Review

One of the most highly respected and sought after brands in road bikes remains the Fuji Bicycle company in Japan. The company boasts an astounding 100 plus year history in the bicycle manufacturing industry with many notable accomplishments along the way such as the establishment of the now world renowned Tour de Japan race and the first to introduce the Shimano Dura Ace part group on its bikes. The following article will give a Fuji Newest 4.0 Review, one of the company’s premier road bikes.

At a modest 500 dollars for a road bike, the 4.0 delivers a lot in an economical package. It features a 24 speed Shimano SL-R400 down tube shifter great for use in a variety of road inclines and environments. The chain is a KMC Z-72 and the brake components are made of a forged aluminum and are dual pivot R-310A’s. Spokes are manufactured of 14G stainless steel and the stem is made from proprietary adjustable road aluminum. All in all a very durable light weight construction overview for a smaller price.

Many users reported that the strengths of the bike are its durable frame and comfortable ride. Some drawbacks were lack of smoothness or a lag in shifting and the actual placement of the down tube shifters claiming that they can be bumped with the knees. Many reviewers were first time road bike owners and commented on the great price combined with value in features. Many said it was an excellent entry-level bike for novice or intermediate road riders. Other positive comments are that the bike is ultra light and easy to carry, great braking capabilities, smooth ride and easy setup. Additional negative comments included a sticky or clunky shifting, practical but ineffective shifter placement, geared more for racing than novice or intermediate riding, and pedals do not accommodate toe clips.

The most frequent comment from users came back to the price of the bike, which was thought to be reasonable across all reviews. Compared to many other professional race bikes on the market, the price of the 500 dollar 4.0 is incredibly reasonable. Buyers can expect to pay at least 3 times that for models that are slightly more sophisticated from other manufacturers. For example, a 2010 Shimano Ultegra, which has similar features and construction to the 4.0, however it retails for up to 2,000 dollars. Overall, the Newest 4.0 has a good array of practical and useful features for the more economical price.

How Is the Automotive Industry Handling the New Industrial Revolution?

Bill Gates is alleged to have once quipped that "If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $ 25 cars that got 1,000 MPG." Even though the authenticity of this quote is questionable, it has been circulated throughout the internet for years because there is something about the sentiment that rings true to us. It certainly does not seem that the automotive industry has kept up with advancing technology the way that the computer industry has.

This may be due in part to the manufacturing infrastructure that has evolved over the years. Making sweeping upgrades to equipment and / or processes seems a very expensive and risky proposition. & Nbsp; When you couple this with the fact that many automobile manufacturers today struggle to find enough demand for their current supply, it is easy to understand why keeping up with the latest technology isn't always a top priority.

The problem with this reluctance, though, is that automobiles are not inexpensive consumables that people buy casually. Customers expect vehicles to come with the highest standards of safety and efficiency. Customers expect the latest technology possible. How can manufacturers keep up with this demand for innovation without changing their processes?

It seems that some manufacturers are beginning to embrace the ways of the modern industrial world, and are finding ways to align their business models with the current wave of interconnectivity and streamlined automation.

Honda Manufacturing of Alabama

Honda's largest light truck production facility in the world – a 3.7 million square foot plant – was faced with a problem all too common to large manufacturing facilities. Over the years, a number of different automation systems were introduced to help streamline production. With operations including blanking, stamping, welding, painting, injection molding, and many other processes involved in producing up to 360,000 vehicles and engines per year, it is not surprising that they found themselves struggling to integrate PLCs from multiple manufacturers, multiple MES systems, analytic systems, and database software from different vendors.

Of course, on top of these legacy systems, Honda continued to layer an array of smart devices on the plant floor and embed IT devices in plant equipment. The complexity introduced by this array of automation systems turned out to be slowing down the operations they were intended to streamline.

After reorganizing their business structure to merge IT and plant floor operations into a single department, Honda proceeded to deploy a new automation software platform that enabled them to bring together PLC data with the data coming from MES and ERP systems into a common interface that allowed the entire enterprise to be managed through a single system. This also allowed Honda to manage and analyze much larger data sets that revealed new opportunities for further optimization. While this reorganization required a significant investment of resources, they were able to realize benefits immediately, and ultimately positioned themselves to maintain a competitive edge through the next decade or more.

Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Company operates a global network of manufacturing operations, and have had difficulty when trying to promote collaboration and share best practices between their various plants. They found a solution using technology based on the Google Earth infrastructure.

Ford was able to develop a cloud-based application that stores 2D and 3D representations of Ford's global manufacturing facilities, and allows users to navigate through these virtual environments, place pins, and upload video, images and documents to these pins that are shared throughout Ford's global operations. Engineers and operators can share information about current plant conditions and procedures, which can be accessed in real time from anywhere in the world. The accumulated data can be used for training or to update standard procedures. By creating a global collaborative tool, Ford has created a means of ensuring that each and every one of their employees has the latest, most accurate information on how to best perform a particular task or how to avoid a problem that was encountered elsewhere.

We will have to see in coming years whether or not these innovations will lead to improved market performance for either of these manufacturers, but in the meantime it is probably safe to expect other companies to follow suit. With the advances in manufacturing technologies and machine-to-machine communication, it is becoming very difficult to remain competitive without playing by the same rules as everyone else. Industrial technology has advanced to the point that we are experiencing what people refer to as a new industrial era – or Industry 4.0. Reluctance is no longer a viable option.

Film Radiography is Declining in Industrial Testing Applications

DODGED THE DIGITAL DILEMMA

The shift from analog to digital technology has given a new lease of life for NDT applications in the industrial radiography market, thus, broadening the scope beyond traditional applications. Digital X-ray systems are proliferating with increased acceptance across all industry verticals, including highly regulated and traditionally conservative aerospace and automotive industries. The most significant contributing factor for this paradigm shift to digital X-ray systems is the cost-saving, which is 5-6 times more (in both computed and direct radiography) when compared to film-based systems. The shift is also being fueled by the bridge of gap by digital systems when it comes to high-resolution images, which used to be a niche for film radiography. Megatrends, such as Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet of Things, and Big Data, are expected to progressively phase out radiography on film.

ADVENT OF PORTABLE RADIOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT

The industry is experiencing significant influx of portable equipment in the recent years. With the need for inspection activities to be carried out at multiple locations and in various orientations, the industry demand for portable testing devices is increasing. The demand for compact and lightweight devices, which enable easier examination, has been a key trend in the market. Innovation in manufacturing technologies is propelling the deployment of these products. Elimination of installation costs with the use of portable devices, which helps in reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of these devices, is further helping the manufacturers strengthen their economic position in the market. The oil & gas industry, which employs testing across the industry supply chain for gauging the structural integrity and for continuous monitoring of intricate structures of various sizes, like plates, tubes and drilling machines, is expected to be among the most dominant end-users for portable radiographic equipment.

DIRECT RADIOGRAPHY TO BE THE GROWTH ENGINE

What's leading the pack in digital radiography? Direct radiography is the fastest growing type of radiography with near double-digit growth rate as compared to the overall market. This segment is aided by advancements in hardware, such as tubes, sources, and detectors, as well as software improvements facilitating better user-friendliness and efficiency. The advantages of direct radiography, including shorter exposure times, real-time applications, use of recognition software, reduced inspection time, environmental concerns, portability, and increased dynamic range (enabling multiple thicknesses to be inspected in one shot), are driving their adoption across all industry verticals. Direct radiography equipment is offering guaranteed high ROI to customers, which is the biggest contributing factor for their growth. Significant market opportunity for direct radiography (includes real-time) exists in automotive and aerospace segments, which are witnessing very high growth rates, even exceeding that of the overall direct radiography market.

Blockchain & IoT – How "Crypto" Is Likely Going To Herald Industry 4.0

Whilst most people only started to learn about “blockchain” because of Bitcoin, its roots – and applications – go much deeper than that.

Blockchain is a technology unto itself. It powers Bitcoin, and is essentially the reason why *so many* new ICO’s have flooded the market – creating an “ICO” is ridiculously easy (no barriers to entry).

The point of the system is to create a decentralized database – which essentially means that rather than relying on the likes of “Google” or “Microsoft” to store data, a network of computers (generally operated by individual people) are able to act in the same way as a larger company.

To understand the implications of this (and thus where the technology could take industry) – you need to look at how the system works on a fundamental level.

Created in 2008 (1 year before Bitcoin), it is an open source software solution. This means its source code can be downloaded edited by anyone. However, it must be noted that the central “repository” can only be changed by particular individuals (so the “development” of the code is not a free for all basically).

The system works with what’s known as a merkle tree – a type of data graph which was created to provide versioned data access to computer systems.

Merkle trees have been used to great effect in a number of other systems; most notably “GIT” (source code management software). Without getting too technical, it basically stores a “version” of a set of data. This version is numbered, and thus can be loaded any time a user wishes to recall the older version of it. In the case of software development, it means that a set of source code can be updated across multiple systems.

The way it works – which is to store a huge “file” with updates of a central data set – is basically what powers the likes of “Bitcoin” and all the other “crypto” systems. The term “crypto” simply means “cryptographic”, which is the technical term for “encryption”.

Irrespective of its core workings, the true benefit of wider “on-chain” adoption is almost certainly the “paradigm” that it provides to industry.

There’s been an idea called “Industry 4.0” floating around for several decades. Often conflated with “Internet of Things”, the idea is that a new layer of “autonomous” machinery could be introduced to create even more effective manufacturing, distribution and delivery techniques for businesses & consumers. Whilst this has often been harked to, it’s never really been adopted.

Many pundits are now looking at the technology as a way to facilitate this change. Reason being that the interesting thing about “crypto” is that – as especially evidenced by the likes of Ethereum – the various systems which are built on top of it can actually be programmed to work with a layer of logic.

This logic is really what IoT / Industry 4.0 has missed thus far – and why many are looking at “blockchain” (or an equivalent) to provide a base-level standard for the new ideas moving forward. This standard will provide companies with the ability to create “decentralized” applications that empower intelligent machinery to create more flexible and effective manufacturing processes.

During Industrial Revolution 4.0 Era, Palm Oil Plantation Have to Implement Digital Technology

At this time the world is in the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) which is characterized by the implementation of artificial intelligence, super computer, big data, cloud computation, and digital innovation that occurs in the exponential velocity that will directly impact to the economy, industry, government, and even global politics.

The Industrial Revolution 4.0 is characterized by a smart industrialization process that refers to improved automation, machine-to-machine and human-to-machine communication, artificial intelligence (AI), and the development of sustainable digital technology.

Industrial Revolution 4.0 is also interpreted as an effort to transform the process of improvement by integrating the production line (production line) with the world of cyber, where all production processes run online through internet connection as the main support.

Road Map to Industrial 4.0 in Palm Oil Industry

In Indonesia the application of industry 4.0 is expected to increase productivity and innovation, reduce operational costs, and efficiency that led to increase the export of domestic products. In order to accelerate the implementation of Industry 4.0, Indonesia has developed a roadmap for industry 4.0 by establishing five manufacturing sectors that will be a top priority in its development, including food and beverage industry, automotive, electronics, textiles and chemicals.

The five industry sectors are favored considering that they have shown their great contribution to the national economic growth. For example, the food and beverage industry, especially the palm oil industry, has a market share with growth reaching 9.23% in 2017. In addition, the industry also became the largest foreign exchange contributor from the non-oil sector which reached up to 34.33% in year 2017.

The magnitude of the contribution of the food and beverage industry sector can also be seen from the value of exports reaching 31.7 billion US dollars in 2017, even having a trade balance surplus when compared with the import value of only US $ 9.6 billion. This figure also places the palm oil industry as the largest foreign exchange contributor to the country.

In order to increase productivity and efficiency optimally, the technology supporting the industrial revolution 4.0 is imperative to implement, including the implementation of Internet of Things (IOT), Advance Robotic (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digitalized Infrastructure (DI).

The structural transformation from the agricultural sector to the industrial sector has also increased per capita income and driven Indonesians from agrarian to economies that rely on an industry-driven value-added process accelerated by the development of digital technology.

In the context of this industrial revolution 4.0, the palm oil industry sector needs to immediately clean up, especially in the aspect of digital technology. This is considering the mastery of digital technology will be the key that determines the competitiveness of Indonesia.

Because if not, then the Indonesian palm oil industry will be increasingly left behind from other countries. If we do not improve our capabilities and competitiveness in priority sectors, we will not only be able to reach the target but will be overridden by other countries that are better prepared in the global and domestic markets.

Digitalization Era in Palm Oil Industry

As a major player in the global palm oil industry, Indonesia needs to clean up soon. Absolute process and operational efficiency is immediately undertaken especially concerning activities involving many manpower such as field work (infield activity) such as crop maintenance, land treatment, fertilizing activity, weeding, harvesting and transporting fruit to weighing and sorting. This is because in this sector there is often time and cost inefficiency.

Digital technology has facilitated a lot of work in the palm oil industry. Now no longer need to make statistical data collected from a number of palm plantations manually. Ease and other advantages of digital technology is able to capture images or photos of fresh fruit bunches, as well as precise location of the garden using a tablet that can access the GPS.

That way, field managers can not only easily track and monitor real-time activity in the garden, but they can also see for themselves the quality of the palm fruit and know exactly which areas are experiencing the problem. And incredibly, it does not need their presence on the field.

In addition to the ease of transferring data from the field to the Excel sheet on the computer and also making reports on the quality of the palm fruit, digitization also facilitates in recording the presence of employees and field workers to then process the data for the purposes of remuneration and incentives.

Not Your Grandfather's Factory: Modernizing Manufacturing to Attract Millennials

Why is engagement such a big deal in manufacturing and the skilled trades? Because according to a 2013 industry report, for every four trade positions that workers retire from, the industry is producing only one replacement. Worse yet, it's predicted that in the next decade, that 2 million out of the 3.5 million manufacturing jobs available will go unfilled because of the lack of available talent.

Now you may be asking, how can that be? With millions of jobless Millennials, who happen to be facing an unemployment rate that is double the national rate, don't we have enough people to fill those positions? Not until we change the image and perception of manufacturing – for both kids and their parents.

For the past two generations, young professionals haven't exactly been leaping at the chance to work in manufacturing. Part of the problem is the stigma that manufacturing has – working in an unclean environment, with outdated thinking, and little room for growth. The other, bigger issues are the parents who have discouraged their kids from attending trade or technical school and instead promote the value of a four-year degree from a college or university. According to the National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Institute (NAM), only 3 in 10 parents would consider encouraging their child toward a manufacturing career. The perception has been that you go into the trades if you are not "college material." And parents want their kids to be "college material."

As the United States is now undergoing a "manufacturing renaissance" and looking to produce their goods on American soil again, there is an urgent and growing need for new talent.

So, how do you make manufacturing jobs more attractive and appealing to prospective employees? You can start by modernizing your brand. If your company is stuck in an old, calcified way of doing business, you're going to have a hard time finding and keeping younger workers.

Today's workers are digital natives. They are "wired" for technology in a way unlike any previous generations, and they expect to access it in the workplace. That's why it's critical for manufacturers to not only have cutting edge Industry 4.0 technology available, companies need to promote the technology used in their production process. Millennials will be pleased, if not surprised, so know that more than two-thirds of US manufacturing companies are adopting 3D printing and more than half use robots.

Look for ways to better utilize mobile devices, videos and virtual reality in your hiring process as well as throughout the plant. Millennials are used to watching videos to learn about new things, so why not use YouTube or another video website to give potential hires a realistic view of "a day in the life" of a worker at your facility. Keep the videos to 2-3 minutes of less and capitalize on the "wow" factors of the job. Not sure what they are? Ask your current team members what they enjoy most about their job. You may even want to interview them and let them share their story in the video. In doing so, you're letting job applicants know that this isn't their grandfather's factory!

One of the first places to start is your company website. Yes, it's a great place to share what your company is all about, but it needs to be real – not a bunch of mumbo-jumbo "marketing speak." Look for ways to share your company culture and mission. What is it like to work there? Demonstrate how your products and services serve a greater mission that simply making a profit. Take advantage of your online presence to show how your company makes a positive impact on society.

Next, check out your social media. (Now, if you're saying "What's that?" Or "That's just a fad," you have your work cut out for you.

Figure out where your potential hires are hanging out. They may not be on Facebook, they may choose Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn instead. It's important to make sure your channels are active and up-to-date. Give your employees opportunities to share what's going on from their perspective. Post pictures from social events, charitable projects, and other fun occasions. Does your company look like a fun place to work from a social media standpoint? If not, look for ways to improve public perception. When done well, this can be a relatively quick fix – just start posting! When you have an active, engaging online social media presence, it builds credibility with potential hires from the younger generations.

Finally, keep in mind that Millennials are always connected. They look for one-on-one communication and immediate feedback. They consider their managers and leaders their peers and want to have access to them. If the only time you're giving feedback is during the annual review process, you're going to lose. There are lots of online tools, pulse-type surveys, and artificial intelligence programs that can help give feedback on demand. Communicating frequently and keeping employees in the loop will do wonders for engagement and performance development.

The digital nature of today's manufacturing is opening up many opportunities for skilled positions, transforming the manual nature of a factory job to the high-tech environment it is today. According to Vicki Holt, President and CEO for Protolabs, "Digital manufacturing is revitalizing our industry and is igniting new opportunities. The skills gap presents a critical roadblock for all of us. But it's encouraging to see a renewed optimism from a new generation of workers , and to hear that they understand this isn't their grandparents' manufacturing industry. Much work remains ahead of us, but this is a good start. "