Although I do not work in biotechnology, I know patenting in this area it is a moving field - currently many companies choose to protect their intellectual property as a trade secret, as they can not be sure to be granted patents on it.
Yes, and even if they could be granted patents, sometimes those would be suicide because you actuallly have to publicly divulge all your technology covered by the patent. This is going to hurt you at the latest once the patent expires (often earlier). Often the trade secret route, especially if you are confident that nobody else will easily discover and implement something similar to your technology, is the much better one to protect your intellectual property.
I have written before about this subject, sharing KlausR views on it. I can understand what is written in these patents, but it does not explain how it sounds and why it sounds so. It mainly describes a topology or a particular way of doing things. This does not mean that the inventor does not know it, but it would be craziness to reveal the fundaments, that can not be patented.
Take a simple, almost childish high-end patent - George Cardas "Multi-strand conductor cable having its strands sized according to the golden section" US 4628151 A https://www.google.com/patents/US4628151 I quote from it:
The cable disclosed herein contains a plurality of individual conductor strands which are designed to act as a single conductive element, even though each of the individual conductive strands within the cable is individually insulated. This is accomplished by providing for a common input to each conductive strand at one end of the cable and a similar single connection to each of the conductive strands at the output end of the cable. Although the phenomenon is not completely understood, employment of different sized individual conductive strands within the cable according to the predetermined golden section ratio produces significantly improved efficiency in the transmission of signals from one end of the cable to another when compared against prior art cables which do not employ this system.
Surely no one asked for listening tests or measurements to prove the improved efficiency in the transmission of signal.
What is protected is the right to manufacture cables having a particular ratio - the called the golden section - between strand sizes. Anyone if free to manufacture cables with the same size strands!
Probably the best analogy is to imagine sandwiching 2 pennies extremely tight in a vice and they were left in the vice for 50 years. Chances are pretty good when you release the vice grip, you’d probably have to pry the pennies apart. Almost like a passive or soft weld. But if you left the pennies in the vice for only a day or so the pennies most likely would separate immediately upon releasing the vice grip.
Thank you, Klaus. That is very interesting, and I'm a bit surprised to learn this. Are you suggesting that we read patents from established high companies which have multiple patents claiming new technologies with perhaps some degree of skepticism?
One thing beforehand: a patent application is published as filed, only title and abstract are checked and possibly modified. When going through the examination process the content is studied to see whether all of that makes sense so that a proper examination can be carried out. If issues need to be clarified, this is done between applicant and examiner, the application basically remains unchanged and is republished as granted patent where only the claims might be different.
One should always keep in mind that the content of a patent application is not subject to modifications, description and drawings remain untouched between filing and grant, only the claims are discussed and are subject to change. This means if an application contains technical nonsense it is published as such simply because there is no quality control. Same goes for new technologies: it’s not new simply because the applicant says it is. Effects or results to be achieved are not existing simply because an applicant says they do. There is no control whatsoever to see if anything that is described is actually true, except for the rare cases where the applicant is invited to demonstrate that his invention actually works as advertised. The actual quality control is done by the markets and customers.
Most companies probably have a genuine interest in patents because they need them for protecting them from competitors. But there are also companies that file applications simply to increase the size of their portfolio or because they can stand in the way of a competitor. All this a patent office can’t know, but has the obligation to publish and examine once the applicant has filed the corresponding request.
So it’s not easy to say who one can trust and who not when it comes to patents, it all depends on the particular strategy of the particular company in the particular market segment.
As for the marketing aspect of “patent pending”, it adds no value to the product because
1.while it’s pending you don’t know if there will be a grant or not and
2.a grant only means it fulfills the requirements of the national patent law, what it does not mean is that it’s a great product that actually does what the patent owner claims it does. Paper doesn’t blush.