Our way to the patent is finally over! It is now official: the vertical automatic system for growing 4Nature System vertical gardens has been given legal protection. Why is it worth patenting technologies and what did the whole process look like in our example?
A few words about patents
For over 200 years the patent law has been trying to keep pace with the technological progress. The golden age of patents of all kinds fell on the times of the Second Industrial Revolution, i.e. at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries when among others gas engine, dynamite, telephone, electric vacuum cleaner or light bulb were invented. The first patented invention in Poland was a device for reducing coal dust; the favourable decision was granted in 1924. Now that we are living in a time of remarkable acceleration of the technological development, patent wars are doing better than ever before.
A lot of weird inventions have been patented in the world: from a banana case, through a device that prevents thumb sucking, to the method of swinging. One inventive company, the Halliburton Company, even tried to patent... patenting. There is an enormous power in possessing rights to a given invention. Tesla realised how painful it was when Marconi vaguely stole the patent for the radio; the court gave Tesla priority only after his death. Hollywood, on the other hand, is supposedly located on the west coast just because filmmakers fled there from Edison and his claims for film processes that California did not accept. The patent ensures effective and strong leader position in the industry; the giants such as Apple know this very well, and they copyright everything they can, including the characteristic shape of rectangular devices with rounded corners.
Why is it worth applying for a patent?
The main task of a patent is to protect the interests of the creator of a given technology. The patent protects the indicated technical solutions legally, provided that specific conditions are met. Only global innovative inventions that are suitable for industrial use can be covered by this type of protection. Market monopoly is granted for 20 years in exchange for public disclosure of an idea for a given invention. The patent owner can either use the technology himself or license it to other entities.
As the examples above show, there are a lot of problems connected with patents. After all - or maybe that's why - it's worth striving for registration of the copyrights to the technology. Globally, patents stimulate innovation and enable creation of a huge knowledge base. Individually - they provide creators with safety and comfort in trading of intangible assets. Nowadays, intellectual property is around 70-80% of the value of enterprises, therefore appropriate protection should be provided as far as possible. Moreover, the patent itself is a carrier of the company value, and virtually a separate legal and financial value that can be valued.
What did the way to the patent look like in the case of the 4Nature System?
As in many cases - long and bumpy. A lot of time had passed before we obtained the patent for our proprietary vertical automatic irrigation and control system for growing plants. Almost 2.5 year had passed since the submission of the application to the end of the procedure. Why so long and what was the procedure like?
1. Searching for a law firm
We started our efforts from searching for an entity suitable for this task. It is not worth developing the patent documentation yourself - the language applied in the descriptions is extremely specific and each word, even the inconspicuous pronoun, is significant and may affect the decision to reject the patent or to receive unfavourable objections. From the beginning, we knew that we wanted to cooperate with such a law firm, where not only lawyers, but also engineers - patent attorneys work. Why? When preparing the documentation, the numerous, often quite confusing, technical aspects must be taken into account. It was so in our case - because 4Nature System is an innovative specialised technology, it was necessary to discuss the topic among the experienced engineers capable of understanding the complexities of the industry.
2. Review of the state of the art
Before we could start the construction works of the modules, it was first necessary to check whether someone else had had a similar idea before us. Such a technical review could not be limited only to Poland; in-depth research was nearly global. Later, the whole procedure required repetition - once we developed our product, we had to revise once again whether we still kept the title of pioneer in our field.
3. Documents, i.e. preparation of the patent description
On the way to obtain a technology patent, there are piles of papers through which all parties involved must go. The documentation development process turned out to be very demanding and, above all, time-consuming. In addition to reviewing the state of the art, it is necessary to prepare a detailed description of your own innovative solution so as to capture the essence of the invention and all possible copyrights, as well as illustrate the text with drawings. We submitted the final description and application at the Patent Office; then we also paid the first fees.
4. Feedback from the Office
About 1.5 year after submission of our application, we received the first letters from the Patent Office. Then, it was time for another review of patented solutions, this time carried out by an official expert. This stage usually involves responding to any comments and objections, for example, as to the innovativeness and inventiveness of the solution. There is a possibility and often even the necessity to make minor (but never extending!) modifications to the descriptions. Unfortunately, in the meantime we had to change the law firm, which in our case was responsible for all paperwork (although the final decisions on the changes were up to us); here, too, the thought-out selection of experienced colleagues, who knew the complexities of the copyright language, paid off.
The next substantial feedback from the office was received after another year of waiting. It happens that this is the last letter which means that the patent has been granted or the application has been rejected. Fortunately, we received a favourable decision - and within quite a short time, because sometimes you have to wait for the procedure to be completed for another half a year and longer. In the meantime, in the mid 2019, the Patent Office published our application in the bulletin.
5. Granting the patent
The 4Nature System technology for growing green walls was officially patented in March 2020, after nearly 2.5 year (or more precisely 28 months) from the submission of the application.