I work in an industry where a large portion of the manufacturing process is "black box" - you don't get instant production feedback from the equipment. You literally take notes on the product that you are manufacturing, and just do that again next time. Machine adjustments are not visible for several minutes, and sometimes even an hour or more. They are also subject to change over time due to other variables, such as temperature.

I developed a process, and even created an Android app that takes just 2 points of sample data along with fixed physical constants, such as mechanical properties of the materials being used, and then uses that data to "simulate" the process. This also can be applied later to entirely new products with new finished dimensions/specifications, but which use the same material previously sampled.

Once a material/machine combination has been sampled twice, that's it: you put in your specs, and out comes precision machine settings.

Can I patent this? From reading the information on Legal Zoom, it looks like I can.

Legal Zoom - What can be patented?

I am looking into this because of the shock and awe reactions that I still get from our engineering department and maintenance staff regarding the absolute precision and repeatability that my tools produce.

  • If this is an in-house process, what would be the value of the patent? Many companies keep such manufacturing tricks as trade secrets. – Eric S Sep 22 '17 at 2:21
  • Keyword "Industry"; this is by no means, a monopolized product base. – tahwos Sep 22 '17 at 10:10
  • The invention probably belongs to your company (check your contract and policies for that). If yes, file a notice of invention with the ip department or your management and let them figure it out. – DonQuiKong Sep 23 '17 at 11:39

What you are asking about is patentability of software or algorithms. This is a tricky subject and there have been recent court decisions that have impacted this. I am not a lawyer but I do have a couple of algorithm patents. My best understanding is that in the US you can patent the application of a specific algorithm to a specific need. For instance, I have a patent on an algorithm used to perform quantitative analysis of polymerase chain reactions. I will say that I had a highly experienced patent attorney doing the drafting and processing of the patent and the claim language needed to be in a very strict form.

There is the question of whether you actually want to pursue a patent. Remember when you file an application, it will publish 18 months later. You need to teach how the technology works so your potential customers will learn how from the application. For in-house manufacturing processes it can be very difficult to determine or even prove that a company is using your technology. It might be better for you to keep the algorithm as "Trade Secret" and sell it as a service.

  • Being that it is highly unlikely, that anyone could, or would even have interest in decompiling my application, this may be the route that I take. Even exposing the source, my peers tend to be partially dumbfounded, if not allergic to the concepts, and implied complexity, to implement on their own. – tahwos Sep 22 '17 at 23:35

In hindsight - patentability is irrelevant. If you have skills that outshine your peers, especially if those skills produce results that can be easily plagiarized - keep the inner workings to yourself and obfuscate where possible.

If sharing is unavoidable, choose the form you share very carefully... is they can steal it, they will. Your peers are not your friends...

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