Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Concrete Protection

Wednesday, June 05, 2013
It is always interesting how things change and how technologies from completely different fields can be integrated together to create something that is new and makes someone say “Wow, that is really cool!” Even in fields of technology where one would not always think that patent protection is possible, there are always ideas that may be worthy of patent protection.

For example, in areas of construction and concrete, there are always new ideas that may result in methods or products that are patentable. And one always has to remember, that even if the idea relating to a new technique or material is conceived by someone else, new uses for a known technology should also be considered for potential protection.

As an example, there has been work done in the concrete field that relates to light transmissive concrete, which is also known as translucent concrete. The first image that is conjured when one speaks concrete is typically not of a “translucent” type of material. A Hungarian architect developed this type of light transmissive concrete in 2001, by adding optical fibres into a concrete mixture. As is readily known optical fibres are virtually a lossless way of transmitting light along their length by way of total internal reflection. As such, this architect has created a material that no longer impedes the transmission of light but effectively aids in light transmission through a once light impermeable material. The fibres are typically embedded within the concrete running parallel to each other thereby enabling the transfer of the light between the two surfaces of the concrete connected by these fibres. This combination of technologies from diverse fields may be considered a first instance of patentable technology.

A second instance of patentable technology may be the method of fabrication of this type of product. For example, originally the optical fibres where individually placed into the concrete during casting, thus making the fabrication of this product time consuming and quite costly. A newer technique for the fabrication of this product includes the use of a woven fabric or mesh of fibre optical filaments, which can be placed in layers in the concrete during the casting process. The use of the mesh configuration can aid in the alignment of the fibres thereby potentially enhancing and accelerating the fabrication process.

A further instance of patentable technology, can result from intended uses of the product. Continuing with the light transmissive concrete example, there was an exhibit of this material at the National Building Museum, which resulted in many people considering potential applications. An example application was demonstrated in Stockholm, wherein this translucent concrete was fabricated into a sidewalk, thereby enabling the illumination of the sidewalk at night. Several other applications that are in the safety realm have also been envisioned, for example, its use in fire escapes during power failures, illumination within subways stations or even the illumination of speed bumps or parking barriers.

So basically the long and the short of it is, regardless of the field of technology, when a new idea surfaces, there is always the potential that the resulting technology is patentable. Accordingly, it is advisable to seek the advice of a registered patent agent during development of new technologies or products.

By Stuart Bristowe