Magnetics Business & Technology - Spring 2015 - (Page 30)
a Column by Dr. Stan Trout
The Patent Challenge
First, let me say that Magnetics 2015 in Orlando was a wonderful and productive experience. It is always a pleasure to see so
many old friends and to meet a few new ones. The latest group
to complete the Magnetics Bootcamp is pictured above. We were
all smiling at the end of the day, no doubt anticipating a visit to
the bar downstairs.
When the Magnetics Bootcamps were first conceived in 2007, it was
unclear how many people would ultimately want to attend such a
seminar, but every year it is offered it seems to draw a good group
of participants. So as long as demand exists, it seems likely the
bootcamps will continue.
The second day of the conference began with a most lively discussion, in my humble opinion, prompted by the joint presentations of
Walt Benecki and Joanne Jia from HPMG Co., Ltd. They spoke about
the patents for sintered NdFeB magnets. It would have been helpful
to have someone from Hitachi to present their point of view, but
that could not be arranged. Considering that there is ongoing litigation, it is easy to understand why they may not want to discuss the
case in a public venue.
Joanne made a compelling case for Chinese magnet producers.
Since China is the world's primary source of rare earths and the
home of more than 200 magnet plants, it is frustrating for the
Chinese that only eight of their magnet producers are Hitachi licensees. To change this situation, seven Chinese magnet manufacturers have banded together to form "The Alliance," which is
trying to have four Hitachi patents invalidated. They are also of-
fering a $15 million indemnification to any company who buys
magnets from them and has a future legal problem with Hitachi.
That seems like a very bold move to me.
Walt Benecki tried to imagine possible outcomes of this activity,
from a clear legal win for either side, to some kind of split decision. No official poll was taken, but my guess is that most people
in the room anticipate some kind of split decision. Regardless of
the outcome, the lawyers will do well.
During the time for questions, I asked Joanne about the idea of
trying to prevent future patents from being issued. She said they
had not considered such an action. While it wasn't the main topic
of this session, an overriding concern is that patents globally are
generally granted far too easily, with too many claims going unchallenged. This is happening universally, not just in our industry.
At that point, I wasn't even sure if there was a way to influence
the patent office.
Returning home and spending a little time on the US Patent and
Trademark Office website answered my question. It turns out
that there is a program called Patent Examiner Technical Training Program (PETTP). This program brings in experts in all kinds
of technology to give seminars to patent examiners. I've already
registered and we are discussing a seminar in the next month or
two, at the new patent office in Denver. I'll report back on my experiences later. I will also try to see if patent offices in other parts
of the world do the same thing. This may be a small way for some
of us to influence our industry in the future.
About the Author - Dr. Stan Trout has more than 35 years' experience in the permanent magnet and rare earth industries.
Dr. Trout has a B.S. in Physics from Lafayette College and a Ph.D. in Metallurgy and Materials Science from the University of
Pennsylvania. Stan is a contributing columnist for Magnetics Business & Technology magazine. Spontaneous Materials, his
consultancy, provides practical solutions in magnetic materials, the rare earths, technical training and technical writing. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Magnetics Business & Technology * Spring 2015
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Magnetics Business & Technology - Spring 2015
First-Order-Reversal-Curve Analysis of Multi-Phase Ferrite Magnets
Magnetics Design Tool for Power Applications
Magnet Inspection Tool with High Magnetic and Mechanic Accuracy
Research & Development
Software & Design
Marketplace / Advertising Index
Spontaneous Thoughts: The Patent Challenge
Magnetics Business & Technology - Spring 2015