Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Academic Patents

If someone were to prepare a Venn diagram of two sets: 1) patents, and 2) technical literature, the set would have almost no overlap. Patents describe (for the most part) useful applications of science and technology, but since they are written by lawyers for the purpose of claiming a legal monopoly, they seldom supply any underlying insight as to the science behind the invention. In fact, they are motivated to disclose as little theoretical understanding as possible (and yet claim as much as possible). In contrast, technical literature will seldom discuss any application of the discoveries in it except in the first and last paragraph. The more insight that can be provided, the better the paper will be received and given those all important citations in the future.

The overlap of these two sets sometimes exists when an academic group files for a patent. A great example of this is US 7,482,421 issued to the University of Cincinnati for a superprimer. This invention is for a chemical composition (a silane) and yet there are 38 illustrations, not illustrations in the usual sense of showing machine parts with intricate labeling scheme, but 38 figures of technical data. SAXS data,DMA data, EIS data...It's a whole technical paper here. No need to wait for Dr. Van Ooij to publish the paper in a coatings journal - it's all here right now. In fact, it's even better. No technical paper will ever have 38 figures. Maybe a review, but not original research.

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