Student Wins Intel Science Fair; Threatened With Patent Infringement Claims For Patent Not Yet Granted
from the because-that's-how-we-do-things-these-days dept
So it goes in America. No one's immune from the threat of patent litigation, not even 18-year high school students in possession of an award-winning science project in one of the most prestigious science fairs around. (Tip of the hat to TD reader Jeff for sending this over.)
Eesha Khare, an 18-year-old senior at Lynbrook High School in San Jose, Calif., won both the first prize at the Intel Science Fair and the Project of the Year award for the senior division of the California State Science Fair with her research on supercapacitors.Kahrl Retti, CEO of Solaroad Technologies, LLC, showed up in the comment thread (assisted by Nick Cameron, also of Solaroad) at Tech World to make some noise about the wrong person being credited with this invention.
However, her work has also attracted the attention of the company that holds a patent involving similar technology, and its CEO says he may be forced to bring legal action against her if she tries to commercialize it.
[K]hare’s work violates a 2005 patent filed by green energy company Solaroad Technologies, according to company CEO Kahrl Retti. He says he has been working on similar technology since the 1980s, and that while Khare’s work is impressive, it is in violation of the patents involving nanocapacitor technology that Solaroad Technologies has already commercialized.
Once again the media has credited the wrong person with inventing a technology. The inventor of this tech filed Patent applications worldwide 7 years ago on this very tech.Nick's comment:
Although Eesha's work is commendable, the media has indeed credited the wrong person with this invention. Solaroad Technologies, a solar innovation company located in Baltimore, MD was the original inventor of the nano battery and holds patent applications worldwide on it. Their CEO (Kahrl Retti) has been in the nanostructure field for years. Directed towards the writer, please check your facts.Cameron went even further on Solaroad's Facebook page: [UPDATE: This post has vanished from Solaroad's Facebook page, so here's a screenshot. Link will now take you to the cached version.]
Once again, the media has given the credit to the wrong person for this invention. This technology was developed by Solaroad Technologies and invented by Kahrl Retti in the 1980's. Patents have been filed worldwide on this tech since 2005. Retti developed and produced nanorod capacitors and has documentation regarding the tech dating to 1988. Scientists from General Electric, General Motors, and Kiment.Pay attention to what's being stated here (which is different than what's being stated in Network World's story). Both Retti and Cameron state only that "patent applications" (or "patents" in the FB post) have been "filed." At this point, neither Retti nor his company actually hold a patent on this technology, at least not in the US. The only patent potentially related to Khare's project that can be traced back to Retti or Solaroad is this one -- an application filed in 2006 (and with a priority date of 2005). [This application seems more relevant, but Retti keeps throwing around the 2005 date.] A search of the USPTO database returns only the following list of granted patents for Retti (most of which deal with taping gypsumboard) and nothing at all for Solaroad.
It is a great disservice to credit this 18 year old with a technology that was invented and developed before she was even born. The scientific community tends to ignore the patent office and only publishes papers fro academic sources, the tech media also ignores the patent office. IT IS A GOOD WAY TO GET SUED
Holding an application is nowhere near as effective as holding an actual patent. While some royalties may be collected from infringement that occurred after the application was published, certain stipulations must be met before the original applicant can make a claim for damages. One of these requirements is that the infringer must have "actual notice" of the published patent. It's hard to imagine that most (if any) science fair projects begin with a patent search, so the noise Solaroad's making only serves one purpose: to inform the involved parties that a.) it exists, b.) it's willing to sue and c.) it's filed an application(s) that might tenuously be related to Khare's work. If she chooses to commercialize her supercapacitor work, Retti can claim she had "actual notice."
That, and Retti just seems bitter that a high school student is garnering all of this attention.
“I would never consciously hurt or cast aspersions on anybody. I just simply wanted to put somebody on notice that we already developed this technology,” Retti said in a phone interview with Network World. “I don’t want to hurt this girl’s feelings or anybody else’s. I’m just frustrated after trying to get Intel or Google to talk to us for decades, and they won’t even talk to me, but they’re jumping on this bandwagon.”If Intel and Google are interested, it's because Khare's project could help push advances in portable device construction.
“I don’t want to pee on anyone’s parade and I don’t want to stop any technology that could be for the greater good of the world, but I’m here to say that I did it,” Retti says.
Khare’s work with supercapacitors could make a difference in the design and performance of smartphone batteries, which, in turn, could help make flexible smartphones a reality... In a test, Khare’s supercapacitor boasted a capacitance of 238.5 Farads per gram, a substantial improvement from the 80 Farads per gram achieved with alternative designs. Practically, supercapacitors could help make for smaller internal components in smartphones.Solaroad, as may be gathered by its name, has positioned itself as an alternative energy company, even going so far as attempting to design its own electric vehicle. If Retti's been unable to match up his (still pending) patent with the priorities of Google and Intel (with an 8-year head start, no less), that's hardly Khare's fault. Shutting down someone else's innovation simply to protect your own rut is exactly the sort of behavior that has people calling for a complete overhaul of the patent system.
Perhaps Retti should spend less time fretting about inventive 18-year-olds and start refining its existing product line. A visit to Solaroad's site gives you the feeling the products it's touting have endless upside, but digging around a little more leads to the impression that its main products exist only as PDFs and Powerpoint presentations.
Here's Solaroad's $500,000 crowdfunding attempt to get its GridKicker solar generation/storage device off the ground. It seems to have stalled after receiving only $30 in contributions in four months. (One of the donors is quite possibly Kahrl Retti's son, Kahrl Retti Jr. [aka Johnny Columbine]). Another comment on its Facebook page (dated October of 2012) seems to indicate Solaroad isn't manufacturing any of its products at this point.
We are currently looking for an investment to start manufacturing. Any questions can be asked through telephone or email. Thanks!While throwing around nearly baseless legal threats, Solaroad might want to be a bit more careful with its careless shouts of "infringement." One of its "future products" is SolarFilm:
SolarFilm is a sprayable nano-based solar technology that creates energy by using heat, light, and magnetics. It's unique formulation of photovoltaic (PV) and thermionic chemical compositions make it one of the most advanced solar technologies ever created. SolarFilm is durable, efficient, and extremely versatile. It can be easily applied to a variety of surfaces, such as roadways, shingles, siding, vehicle paints and much more.This bears quite a resemblance to SolaRoad, another solar-generation-via-roadway-application product developed by Dutch company TNO. This is due for a test run in 2013, with an eye towards replacing all 85,000+ km of the Netherlands' roads and bike paths with the combination solar panel/concrete hybrid.
There's likely no infringement occurring here (in either direction), but Retti and Solaroad have shown they're more than willing to take offense at independent invention. This does very little for whatever legal case it may try to pursue, but it does a great deal towards crafting some very negative "publicity."