Researchers at Boston College have spent years developing a lithium-ion battery that lasts 10 times longer, charges faster and is safer and lighter than those we use today. It could transform how TV remote controls, smartphones and electric vehicles are powered, as well as military equipment and factory machinery around the world.
The team has also spent years and thousands of dollars securing patents on the technology. Many more filings to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are planned.
The battery company, called EnerLeap, is like many forming in labs and start-up accelerators in the U.S. Its lifeblood is the strength and utility of its technology. As young companies prepare to manufacture and sell goods, they depend on patents to protect the research and innovation behind them.
Major changes to patent law since 2011 have dramatically altered the process and strategy involved with securing intellectual property. Inventors and start-up companies would be foolish not to understand the implications and consider whether research and development, not distribution, marketing and talent recruitment, is the key to building a viable business. Here's an explanation of the new law:
In September 2011, to alleviate a years-long backlog of patent applications, the trademark office created a fast track. For $4,000 for a large company and $2,000 for a small one, applicants can ensure their filings will be reviewed within a year of submission.
In March 2013, the trademark office substantially raised fees for re-examination requests and patent reviews, proceedings that companies facing infringement use to attack the validity of patents without going to court. They can also delay litigation, and save the associated costs.
The most significant change is that the patent office no longer awards patents to the first-to-invent but to the first-to-file, putting it in line with patent law in many other countries.
In reaction, David Bailey of Anaheim, Calif., firm Kauth Pomeroy Peck & Bailey, is hearing from inventors before they begin work on a new technology. They want to know how much R&D should be complete before filing for a patent, so they can budget time and financial resources.
Most are then filing a provisional application, says Dave Dorton, a partner at Wood Herron & Evans in Cincinnati. That option allows inventors to disclose the invention and the problem it will solve, serving as a placeholder while the inventor finishes work. A full application must be filed within a year. (continued...)
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