Not all great ideas turn into patents; they simply are not novel enough to warrant the effort. Some ideas are so great that a company decides to keep them as a trade secret. The following exchange I had with Greg Taylor instructed me on how to determine if an invention should be patented:
- “Would other companies like to use this idea?” – yes
- “Can you tell if someone else has used this idea?”- yes
- “Could we make money from this idea?”- yes
The idea being discussed was Weak Write Test Mode, which I called a “Sexy Hard Problem” in my first post about this technology. The answers all came up “yes,” so, naturally, a patent would be discussed.
Jash Banik filled out the initial paperwork to start the process at Intel in December 1994. The invention disclosure went through an internal review to decide on the next step. Sometimes the committee determines that a defensive publication is sufficient; there existed journals which permitted anonymous publication–a way to shine light on the idea without shining light on oneself. The decision was made to file a patent. While Jash worked with the lawyers, I continued to implement the technology. In addition, I led the writing effort for two papers (for internal conferences at Intel) that aided in the adoption internally at Intel. Then I submitted a paper for external publication; I think that may have been the actual context for the discussion with Greg.
The funny thing is, the patent was awarded approximately one month prior to my presenting the results of Weak Write Test Mode at the International Test Conference in October 1996.
Have a Productive Day,
Dear Reader, what memory or question does this piece spark in you? Have you ever filed for a patent? Do you invent things and want to know more about patents? Please share your comments or stories below. You, too, can write for The Engineers’ Daughter–See Contribute for more information.
The US Patent Office has good information about the patent process.
A nice introduction to how to patent an idea can be found at wikihow.
More on why and when to patent can be read at this article.
The Weak Write Test Patent.