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New software alerts designers early to potential patent infringement


A new computer tool is being developed by researchers at Brunel University London to help designers generate more innovative design solutions and avoid potential clashes with patent prior art emerging during a product modelling process.

The team (Dr Mark Atherton, Professor David Harrison, Dr Alessio Malizia, Dr Pingfei Jiang and Dr Manal Helal) have been working on patents in the field of mechanical engineering, where the novel inventive step often relies heavily upon how functions and key geometrical features of the design interact. Aluminium beverage cans, for example, clearly demonstrate relationships between function and novel geometry.

The Brunel researchers identified a need for a computer tool linking CAD systems to patented prior art, and with EPSRC funding are now developing a new system to identify potential common features between designs.

The tool – which currently has the working title of Design Assistant for Semantic Comparison of Intellectual Property (DASCIP) - could boost creativity by increasing awareness of prior art as well as preventing costly litigation at a later date by alerting designers at an early stage, in real-time, when aspects of their designs are too similar to an already-patented design.

DASCIP employs existing patent images annotated with descriptions in a way that allows for matches of geometric features and functional interactions to be identified. While this annotation in a new standardised vocabulary has been initially completed manually by the Brunel team during the feasibility phase, they are now developing an automatic system of annotation.

The research is now at a stage where dissemination to industry is hoped to lead to collaborative projects on real mechanical products that will demonstrate its benefits to innovation and also to avoidpatent issues.

“Patent applications have grown nine per cent worldwide year-on-year for the past two years, increasing the likelihood that a designer will unwittingly infringe on prior art,” explains research lead Dr Mark Atherton, Reader of Design Engineering at Brunel.  

“And with around a quarter of companies experiencing an Intellectual Property dispute over the past five years, and significant damages agreed in around 30 per cent of cases – with average payouts of £120k - the need for designers to be better aware of prior art is clearly increasingly important.”

Those with interest in the new DASCIP tool are invited to Brunel University London on Tuesday 6th June for a demonstration workshop. This workshop will also benefit design engineers who would like to improve their creativity through a better understanding of patent prior art.

Contact Pingfei Jiang on pingfei.jiang@brunel.ac.uk or 01895 266029 to register.

Read more on the Design Week website

Reported by:

Sarah Cox, Media Relations