Douglas A. Grady: Why engineers need to be wary about intellectual property

As we all know, engineering is becoming one of those in-demand professions. It is becoming somewhat fashionable to become an engineer, and this isn’t just because of the higher-than-average pay checks that these professionals tend to earn. It’s also related to the types of projects they get into, and the fact that the world is taking on some architectural masterpieces means that there are some really exciting projects to work on, regardless of your location.

In a lot of ways, engineers are completely undersold though. For example, the architect who designed the latest innovative building might reap all the plaudits, but it’s the team of engineers behind him who made it all come together and ultimately, function.

This is related to today’s article. Douglas A. Grady has found that a lot of engineers have nowhere near as much self-worth as they really should have. Obviously, we’re not talking about self-worth from a personal point of view here, but more related to how much credit they give themselves when being at the forefront of these ground-breaking projects.

As such, today’s article will delve into the details about intellectual property, a term that some engineers have alarmingly never come across. We’ll start things off with an overview of patents, before then progressing onto just when an engineer should decide to reveal any of his latest findings.

The importance of patents

Every time an engineer designs something, whether this is through code or a diagram, it has some intellectual property rights attached. These rights are legally attributed to them – but there are some caveats.

For example, should a prototype for a project be lost, so are the intellectual rights.

This is one of the reasons why patent protection is so invaluable for an engineer. Every time they design something new, or out of the ordinary, they need to protect themselves by registering a patent.

Of course, this is easier said than done, and patent protection can be a long process. However, if they fail to do this, there’s every chance that someone else will take the credit – and the engineer will be left with nothing for their conception. Armed with a patent, they can be recompensed in the future.

When should ideas be publically disclosed?

Following the previous point, an important question to ask is just when engineers should disclose their ideas to the general public. After all, there’s a fine line here. Should they disclose them before they file their application, or afterwards?

If they choose the former, there’s every chance that they won’t be able to protect themselves with a patent. This goes against a lot of patent laws across most of the world, for the simple reason that it can make the patent process even more complicated as umpteen companies and individuals could then claim the work themselves.

As such, a great degree of caution has to be exercised here. Being overly-enthusiastic about an idea is a recipe for disaster in relation to patents, and engineers should look to bide their time before making any sort of revelation.

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