Thursday, February 23, 2012

Patent accepted

There is good news to report.  Today I received notification from my patent attorney that my patent application 2007240126 has been accepted.

My attorney writes:

“The acceptance will be advertised in the Australian Patent Office’s Official Journal of Patents on 1 March 2012.  The deadline for any third party opposition is three months from that date.  If no opposition is filed in that period then the patent will be granted shortly thereafter.”

This patent application refers to my concepts for an evaporation heat engine and condensation heat pump, both in piston-cylinder and continuous-flow forms.  It’s a high-level application, which covers the thermodynamic cycles and their uses, rather than actual details of the devices (although examples are given).

As the patent number suggests, the provisional application was filed in 2007, then converted into a Patent Collaboration Treaty (PCT) application thus giving me international protection for 18 months, and then applied for in the national phase in Australia.

What have I learned from this long process?

My dominant realisation is that inventors have to exercise fine judgement in patenting.  There are familiar arguments for patenting an invention:  protection is obtained and the concept can be promoted to potential investors.  But on the other hand, patenting is certainly not cheap and is time-constrained.  If an inventor hasn’t secured funding to take the invention further, then patent bills still have to be paid and perhaps the number of national jurisdictions pruned back when the PCT application reaches the national phase.  So it’s a fine judgement – to patent, or to protect your work through other means (such as good old-fashioned secrecy).

To complete this post, I’ll just mention that I’m currently working on computer simulations of thermal storage in a bed of loosely packed rock.  This storage mechanism is very well suited to my evaporation engine, as powered by passive solar heat collection (see www.sunoba.com.au).  I expect to be able to report on the storage simulations within several months.

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