Patentability

I enjoyed ”The Death of Business-Method Patents” [March]. A patent application should contain three things: (1) the work done, summarized in a paragraph indicating the contribution of the applying individual or business; (2) the applicability or utility of the patent to be sought; and (3) the requested scope of the patent. Items 1 and 3 would signal red flags if the scope of the patent sought was significantly different from the work done; items 2 and 3 would limit a patent to something less than ”anything under the sun” dealing with the method or process. These items, combined with making it illegal to sell or transfer a patent, may significantly improve the patent system. The idiotic patent claims mentioned in your article tend to stem from patents involving concepts rather than items, that is, patenting ”a way of doing X” rather than ”something that does X” and suing anytime anyone finds a way to do X that may or may not be similar to yours. There should always be a way of working around a patent. If such a workaround does not exist, then you have a concept or a law of nature, not a patentable item.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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