Chapter 2

Patents and Patent Strategies—What They Are and Why You Need Them

The World Changed

In years gone by, clever inventors, often working on their own, would devise a new method or piece of equipment that would have distinct advantages over that that had been previously available. Simple devices such as the pol on an ax (the weighted portion of the ax head opposite the blade that counterbalances the blade) provided more mass and better balance to the ax than that of earlier designed axes. This allowed the large trees found in the New World to be cut efficiently. The claw on a hammer that allowed a carpenter to pull, as well as drive, nails is an example of another such improvement.

Such inventions, though simple in concept, were extremely useful. Moreover, they represented distinct technological advances that tended to be fairly unique and differentiated from any proposed alternative methods that could be used to compete with these inventions. As such, it was often possible to obtain a single patent that was readily understandable and that provided adequate protection for an invention.

This is no longer the situation in the 21st century. James Burke in his books Connections [1] and The Day the Universe Changed [2] described how technological advances generally do not occur because of an isolated inspiration. Rather, an individual, cognizant of seemingly unrelated technologies, with a stroke of brilliance is able to relate those technologies to one another and solve a problem ...

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