I demonstrated a solar tracking mount I built at a Renewable Energy Fair, MREA Midwest Renewable Energy Association. in Custer. Wisconsin. Several thousand people saw it on or about June 21st 2001. A week or so later I posted pictures of this on my web site.

I found US6563040 which is clearly a close copy of my tracking mount. I listed it on my patent page.

After several years I found Herbert T. Hayden but he said he was not actually involved with writing the patent and didn't know where the idea came from.

Anyway, I have clear evidence of prior art predating the filing date of US6563040, Oct 11, 2001. by about 4 months.

I don't claim my idea was a "True Invention". I call it a "Personal Invention". I mean. I did think it up myself but didn't pursue a patent.

Is my mount prior art for that patent? Can I get the patent invalidated?

  • 3
    I'm a little confused about what you're trying to ask here. Are you asking about what is the next best course of action, or if this constitutes a valid prior art, or something else?
    – Yi Jiang
    Sep 22, 2012 at 6:33
  • If Jerry Coffin is correct, and US6563040 had no invention date prior to yours, then all you have, without your own patent, is a way to destroy a business model - or a blackmail card. Rough business, if no alternate. Sep 23, 2012 at 4:03

2 Answers 2


For the moment, I'm going to ignore the possibility that their patent actually covers something significantly different than your tracker, and just deal with the matter of dates.

They have 1 year following the invention within which to file the patent, so your invention would need to predate the patent by at least 1 year to qualify as statutory prior art.

As it stands right now, your invention might be prior art, but then again, it might not be. The question would come down to who actually invented it first. In most cases, that's translated as "who actually reduced it to practice first". For example if you had lab notes (or similar) showing when you'd first gotten your invention to work, that would be the crucial date. Obviously it must have worked for at least some short period of time before you demonstrated it. If you could show that it was more than 8 months before you demonstrated it (i.e., more than one year before they filed for their patent) then it would clearly invalidate their patent.

Just for the sake of argument, let's assume you had your device working 2 months before you showed it, so it predated their filing by six months. To show their patent was valid, they'd have to show that they invented it during the (approximately) six month period starting from a year before they filed, and ending the day you invented your tracker. Their patent could/would be valid if and only if they could show it was invented during that window.

In other words, what you've shown isn't necessarily enough to prove their patent is invalid. Without knowing the exact history of their claimed invention, and how long before filing they invented it, it's impossible to say whether the patent is valid or not.


This is a highly specific system patent. The claims are so narrow that that what you did would have to be almost completely identical to have any relevance. You're probably thinking that something they do that you also did is the innovative element - it's not. There's no significant innovation here; all they're patenting is this very particular way of putting conventional design elements together. These types of patents are chiefly intended to prevent another manufacturer from selling an exact copy, but it's just another heliostat. They tend to look pretty similar.

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