A new approach for patent use in student design engineering projects

Maclachlan, Ross and Wodehouse, Andrew and Vasantha, Gokula (2018) A new approach for patent use in student design engineering projects. In: Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, E&PDE 2018. Design Society, Glasgow, pp. 288-293. ISBN 9781912254026

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    Abstract

    This paper presents a new philosophy for patent use in student design projects; patents are more valuable when viewed as creative and learning resources rather than as a list of prior art to be considered for infringement. A practical approach to patent searching, clustering and creative use for student product and engineering design projects is summarised. This is timely as there are increasing efforts from the world’s IP institutions to improve access to patent databases both in terms coverage and in the way the data is presented to users. There is also a growing research interest in understanding how patent disclosures could be utilised as stimuli and exemplars for creative concept and embodiment design. Such work is making significant progress in understanding how patents may be used creatively by designers, but these functionalities have yet to be made available to designers for general use. Open source systems and tools are increasingly robust and there appears an opportunity to better engage with the patent databases in the spirit of the research base. After describing a search strategy for an example design problem, a prototype morphological patent gallery, trialled within a student workshop, is discussed. Participants found they could quickly understand abbreviated visual and text representations of the patents and were able to synthesise concepts from multiple patent clusters. A new function based format for patent landscaping is also presented. Future work will focus on developing an end to end process and tools interfacing with live patent databases.