Patents come with risks. A patent application may cost thousands of dollars. If the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) rejects the application, the patent prosecution process may cost thousands more dollars to overcome the rejection. The patent process may take years and cost tens of thousands of dollars, and the result may or may not be a patented invention. In this interview with Axel Van Briesen, President of New Precision Technology, Inc., we learn that patents benefit small manufacturers and those benefits are worth the time and money risks.
Patents provide a patent holder with a bundle of rights. A patent holder may stop another from making, using, or selling, the patented invention. Small manufacturers must be flexible in their decision making: Small manufacturers make changes on demand to accommodate customers’ needs. Small manufacturers may not have an opportunity to think of patent infringers and how to divert future operating funds to enforce patent rights. That’s ok. A small manufacturer’s patent provides more than an opportunity to sue someone in the future for patent infringement. Axel agrees. “A patent imbues the small company with a degree of credibility – a signal implying professionalism – that is difficult to attain by word of mouth.”
An issued patent is a government seal of approval of an inventor’s expertise. A patent issued by the USPTO says to the world that an inventor invented something that is novel and useful. The inventor, and only the inventor, can claim having invented that novel invention. Axel uses that seal of approval to solidify his reputation in his industry. “As a small manufacturer, credibility is my key stock in trade. If a customer orders a custom machine from me, they need to be assured that they will receive something for their investment that will work.” Proving expertise is an aspect of business development. “Any time you can provide any stamps of certification or approval that indicate they are purchasing expertise with the hardware you have a better chance of winning the project.” As Axel explains, “They need to know that I can do what I say. The patent is almost a governmental stamp saying I can.”
Reputation is critical to small manufacturers’ business development. Axel’s business relies on its reputation: “I sell knowhow and experience along with hardware to increase my client’s chance of success.” Reputations were built one job at a time. A small manufacturer would do a good job, delivering quality goods on time, and the word would spread. “It used to be that word of mouth did the trick.” These days, legal obstacles hinder this reputation-building approach “because the world has gotten NDA crazy.” Small manufacturers need to find ways to build their reputation without breaching a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Axel finds the answer in patents, even if a patent “seems to be irrelevant based on current projects.” An issued patent builds a small manufacturer’s reputation. Rather than rely on word of mouth, a small manufacturer may use a patent to identify the manufacturer as competent.
An issued patent identifies a small manufacturer as leading edge. Axel leverages his patent claiming hollow gaskets to enhance his reputation in the gasket manufacturing industry. The industry is not quick to implement hollow gasket manufacturing. “Manufacturing likes to use mature processes whenever possible. Even with the cost savings of hollow gaskets, there is a reluctance to deviate from time proven processes.” The patent shows the industry what is possible. This look into “the possible” aligns with the purpose of the patent system. The patent system allows industry members, competitors, or other interested parties to learn what a patent holder knows. Those non-patent holders may eventually improve on a claimed invention and advance knowledge in the industry. Small manufacturers have the flexibility to learn and improve. Small manufacturers can leverage the patent system for eventual game-changing industry impacts.
I want to thank Axel Van Briesen for sharing information about manufacturing patents. To learn more about New Precision Technology, Inc, a manufacturer of semi-custom gasket dispensing automation, please visit www.nptinc.com.
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