Patents: What Every Engineer Should Know

by Ralph A. Mittelberger, Principal; Fish & Richardson P.C., Washington, D.C.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 2001, Vol. 71, Issue 6, Pg. 58-63

Document Type: Feature article


Ignoring patent law can have serious consequences for civil engineers. They may sacrifice valuable patent rights or they may risk exposing themselves to a patent infringement lawsuit. A patent is an agreement between the government and a person who has invented something new and useful. A patent is valuable because its owner can use the law to prevent anyone from practicing the patented invention without permission, and to obtain compensation if someone else does. Obtaining a patent is simple in theory, but almost always necessitates the involvement of a registered patent attorney or patent agent. Asking the right questions can help determine whether one has invented something patentable. Civil engineers can take several practical steps to preserve and use patent rights and to protect themselves from others' assertions of rights, including maintaining good records, avoiding actions that could jeopardize a patent, spelling out patent rights and obligations in advance and in writing, and considering risk sharing and shifting.

Subject Headings: Laws | Risk management | Litigation | Agreements and treaties | Owners | Writing skills

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