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Patent creation a battle for ideas, say Korean engineers

Posted: 16 Aug 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:patent? intellectual property? standardization? r&d? patent research?

Hong (left), with An and Yeh, advise aspiring engineers to get over the fear of failure in patent develpoment.
Engineers who know the importance of patents might be ignorant of how to create and apply for one. It is, however, not as difficult as some might think, say some engineers in the field.

"Passion for learning makes patent works enjoyable," says Yeh Sang-Kuk, manager of Intellectual Property Group, LG Electronics, who is an 8-year veteran in the field. He had been in charge of ASIC design patent in LG Semiconductor before its merger with Hynix, and, after that, moved to a patent process-related job. His current job involves supporting researchers in preparing ideas for patent specification, and patent attorney to final patent acquisition.

"This is a job requiring a mix of both engineering and liberal arts," says Yeh. The reason he chose LG Semiconductor was that he thought he could learn more about the field in the company. "Having had to pay an enormous amount of royalty to leading foreign companies for DRAM technology before, LG Semiconductor was painfully aware of the importance of their own patents. It was in that atmosphere that I could enrich my business practice."

His fellow researchers, Hong Chang-Woo and An Jong-Hoe, both associate research engineers of LG Electronics, are involved in creating patent technology. An has a Master's degree in Electronics (Telecommunications), and Hong has a Bachelor's degree in Radio Engineering.

An is working on a signal standardization patent for Technical Specification Group-C (TSG-C) and contributing to the 3rd Generation Partnership Project 2 (3GPP2) standard organization for the symmetric standardization. He possesses 26 patents in the mobile communications-related field alone, including the standardization technology for 1x EV-DV, in 3GPP2.

Overcoming fear

"Contrary to a general notion that a patent is about developing something that never existed before, in most cases, it's more like improving upon existing products or technology," says Hong.

Patent creation is a battle for ideas, emphasizes Hong. He has to apply for more than two patents in a year. If they are reflected on 3GPP2's standard, he gets compensation money of around US$ 8,300.

Hong advises aspiring engineers to get over the fear of failure in patent development. He still remembers the helplessness he felt three years ago when the company instructed him to apply for patents. "Having to start from scratch, the burden I felt was enormous. More than once, I had ideas about new approaches to using particular coding, but found out that foreign engineers already patented most of them. After striving hard for new ideas for a while, I realized that I was being unwise."

His solution was to get inspiration from face-to-face conversations with his senior colleagues who explained the system and communications theories, and pointed out the problems inherent in the implementation of some of his ideas. "Next year, prototypes of mixed phone/Internet mobile phone and basestation will be introduced. The 1x EV-DV-related forward link packet data transmission technology I patented is applied to them. That would have been impossible without the inspiration I got from my conversation with senior members."

There is another way to get creative ideas. "Dig into the problems presented by other's patents. These are patent material," says An. "A good portion of our existing patents has come out of our desire to improve upon our existing R&D results. I always spare the time to read mobile-communication-related patent documents applied by other engineers as well as texts for existing standards. In the course of studying, you find problems, you solve them, and there are your patents."

Hong agrees that patents need not be perfect. "Just keep in mind that a patent is something you keep augmenting and improving upon."

Everything R&D is patent material

"Everything in R&D has something to do with patents" says An. "Thus," he claims, "it's not an option but a must for researchers to have an interest in patents."

Yeh agrees, saying that constant interest in patent technology trends is a shortcut to the 'oasis' of ideas. Today's patent technology covers a wide area. For example, business models not included in the telecommunications patent area in the past, like stock, game, auction, mobile phone key input scheme and account settlement method, are now covered.

"The categories of ideas are constantly expanding. One such case is the 'slot mode,' which allows mobile phones to reduce power consumption by periodically setting itself to sleep and awake modes. Generally, this kind of power-saving mode can be implemented for any product. But the point is, some major foreign companies adjusted the technology to the CDMA and were quick to promote its standardization through relevant standard organizations, resulting in good patents." He regrets that it was something local researchers could have thought of for themselves. "Probably, they didn't know it was a patent material, too."

- Kwon Yong-Wook

Electronic Engineering Times - Korea

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