EEshock wrote:"So what went wrong [with Solyndra]?" people ask. What went wrong is that as fast as this technology is being developed, it is being adapted and outright stolen by other, more manufacturing-savvy and efficient countries. That we have lost our edge in manufacturing is no surprise, but we have also lost the advantages of intellectual property protection as well. Patents are not of the value they once were.
Losing our edge in high tech manufacturing is indeed no surprise. In the globalization of the world’s economy it would be foolish to believe that easily translatable manufacturing techniques would not be employed in all countries that support high technology companies. This does not lead one to draw a bright line to the advantages (or disadvantages) of seeking patent protection. Nor does it mean that Solyndra lost out because their IP was stolen.
EEshock wrote:It takes an enormous amount of resources to protect IP these days. The world is at economic war, and we are in the front lines. While it takes a lot of money to submit and defend patents, patents in and of themselves are not enough. Nowadays, it also takes both solid patent protection and good old-fashioned trade secrets. Solyndra, and many other companies before it, were lost to the Chinese because of cheap manufacturing, a weakened demand from a poor economy, and intellectual property theft. This theft is both from industrial espionage and theft from disrespect of intellectual property, an attitude that starts from the top rung of the leadership ladder.
A comparison of patent applications made by Solyndra and Suntech (a Chinese solar technology company) tells a different story. Both have been actively pursuing patent protection, with Solyndra U.S. Patent Applications numbering 31 and Suntech Power numbering 11 applications. Of more than a little interest is the list of inventors on the Suntech applications. All of the names in bold either work or have worked outside China at one time or another.
‘876 Guo; Peng; (Shanghai, CN) ; Ma; Xiaoguang; (Shanghai, CN) ; Song; Xianzhong; (Shanghai, CN)
‘631 Ji; Jingjia; (Wuxi, CN) ; Shi; Zhengrong; (Jiangsu, CN) ; Qin; Yusen; (Jiangsu, CN) ; Wenham; Stuart; (Jiangsu, CN) ; Artes; Graham; (Jiangsu, CN)
‘745 Ji; Jingjia; (Wuxi, CN) ; Wenham; Stuart; (Sydney, AU) ; Chen; Liping; (Wuxi, CN) ; Shi; Zhengrong; (Wuxi, CN)
‘928 Guo; Peng; (Shanghai, CN) ; Song; Xianzhong; (Shanghai, CN) ; Qiao; Qi; (Shanghai, CN) ; Wang; Yongqian; (Shanghai, CN)
‘540 Ji; Jingjia; (Wuxi, CN) ; Shi; Zhengrong; (Wuxi, CN) ; Qin; Yusen; (Wuxi, CN)
‘348 Li; Zhigang; (Shanghai, CN) ; Yun; Min; (Wuxi, CN) ; Yu; Huacong; (Shanghai, CN) ; Song; Xianzhong; (Shanghai, CN)
‘991 Chan; Palvin Chee Leong; (San Francisco, CA)
‘974 Chan; Palvin; (San Francisco, CA) ; Yu; Wang; (Jiangsu, CN) ; LeDucq; Matthew; (San Francisco, CA) ; Beebe; Andrew; (Burlingame, CA) ; Benga; Joseph; (San Francisco, CA) ; Steele; Jacob; (San Francisco, CA) ; Niehaus; Johann; (Dripping Springs, TX)
‘593 Ji; Jingjia; (Jiangsu, CN) ; Qin; Yusen; (Jiangsu, CN) ; Shi; Zhengrong; (Jiangsu, CN)
‘139 Li; Jian; (Jiangsu, CN)
‘117 Shi; Zhengrong; ( Wuxi, CN) ; Wang; Tihu; (Littleton, CO) ; Li; Jian; (Jiangsu, CN)
Of note are the bios of the principle technology officers of this company: Stuart Wenham and Graham Artes. These gentlemen (and many of Suntech’s inventors) don’t impress me as answering the trumpet calls of a ‘world at war’ in a nationalistic sense. They appear to be economic opportunists. The following graph is from How does U.S. government backing of Solyndra compare to China’s support of their solar industry?
As the article states, the chart is a bit misleading because the U.S. DOE loan program has spent ~$40B on a portfolio of greentech firms – with most of the money going to more forward-looking technologies. Whether the battle should be fought over today’s technology or those technologies of tomorrow is fodder for a separate discussion.
EEshock wrote:I am no China basher. To the contrary, I admire the skill with which they have built their industries in a dramatically short period of time, and what an industrious people they are. While I may be incensed at their distain of patents and patent law.
I agree that there are problems needing to be addressed. A good place to start in an understanding of some of these is China: Intellectual Property Infringement, Indigenous Innovation Policies, and Frameworks for Measuring the Effects on the U.S. Economy.
The largest problem relates to opening up the Chinese market to ‘non-indigenous’ innovations. There has always been (and will always be) IP theft – and this mostly relates to the theft of trade secrets. The truth of the matter is, the Chinese are still coming out of a controlled economy in which ownership of anything was a foreign (as well as forbidden) concept. Their behavior relates not so much to a disdain of patent law as it does to a deep-seated cultural lack of understanding of it. Rest assured though, the greater the influx of individuals like Wenham and Artes into Chinese economic circles, the faster change will come.
EEshock wrote:Solyndra and EEstor couldn’t be more different. EEstor has been run brilliantly, at least from the perspective of holding on to the crown jewels that they appear to have. They have amassed a patent portfolio surrounding the super-capacitor that compares to the Alamo under siege. Their crowning achievement, comparable to the feat of the technology itself, is their "Manhattan Project" style of stealth development. Every effort is being made to protect the manufacturing of the EESU. They have secured barium rights. EEstor has protected the secret sauce, and their trade secrets are more voluminous than their patent portfolio, if they are at all consistent with their sophisticated strategy.
Eestor has led a cloistered corporate existence and has sacrificed speed to market as a result. Whether this ends up being a brilliant strategy or not remains to be seen. Their patents serve to both advertise and protect. By ‘protecting the secret sauce’ I take this to mean protecting it by keeping it a secret. So far as I can determine, all Eestor has done in terms of ‘secret sauce’ protection has been to ensure that someone else’s secret sauce cannot be used against them (a move that has considerable value).
EEshock wrote:The herculean effort being made to protect EEstor's intellectual property and the great extent that EEstor has gone to protect the manufacturing of the EESU, would lead one to think their behavior is consistent with the EESU being real.
I agree. Their IP strategy is consistent with a real product. Further, I believe that their most potent IP is to be found in their trade secrets.
And the recently passed America Invents Acts helps Eestor in this regard. See Trade secret assets: prior user rights expanded under the America Invents Act.
Last edited Sun, 25 Sep 2011, 1:14pm by DAP