Patent or Publication?
In a research work, should an innovative outcome of research work having a commercial application be protected by a patent first or by a publication in a journal?
In a research organization, a government project was sanctioned for research work on turbomachines. The common problems that are encountered in a turbomachine are stall and surge. Flow studies of a compressor were taken up to study these problems of stall and surge in a compressor.
In a compressor, compressor stall is a local disruption of the airflow in the compressor of a gas turbine or turbocharger. A stall that results in the complete disruption of the airflow through the compressor is referred to as a compressor surge.
The research work was carried out for one year and culminated in the development of a “System and Method for Predicting a Surge in a Compressor “, based on the performance parameters of the compressor. Further analysis resulted in an innovative solution. The scientists were in a hurry and published this innovative research outcome in an international journal. Also, the scientists were enthusiastic to disclose the methodology adopted and the outcome to foreign visitors who visited the institution. Consequently, within a few months, a US patent application was filed by research scientists abroad on the same concepts.
This happened because of lack of awareness of patent protection in researchers. The institution and scientists lost an opportunity to file a patent and further monetization of the patent because of their enthusiasm to publish their findings. If a patent had been filed, it would have resulted in commercialization of the patent, leading to a means to compensate the money spent on research and development
As per patent laws, novelty of an invention with respect to prior art is one of the conditions of patentability. Therefore it is advisable to keep the research work confidential till a patent application is filed first within the country. It is imperative that this must be done before it is disclosed in publications, exhibitions or in conferences. This case study is an example to substantiate the fact that “Patent first, before the publication”.
Prof S Rama Murthy (firstname.lastname@example.org)