The following is the a further posting in a series of articles by David French, a patent attorney with 35 years experience, which will review patents of interest touching on the field of Cold Fusion.
September 12, 2011 –On September 2, 2011 I was interviewed by James Martinez who provides audio podcasts on the Internet, particularly through the Internet radio website: Cash Flow!. That radio interview event has now been posted here. It was inspired by my previous postings on issues relating to cold fusion patents.
In the course of the conversation James remarked that he knew of investors who were looking for opportunities to invest in Cold Fusion. Where should they begin? This was a very legitimate question. James advised that these investors were at a loss because there seemed to be so much confusion in the field.
My first reaction during the interview was to observe that, in terms of patents, there may never be a “master patent” in the Cold Fusion field. A Master Patent is one that covers every way of accomplishing a result. Such a patent can only issue for a configuration that is new in the sense that it is the first to achieve the general result. It’s quite possible that in the last 20 years there have already been one or more descriptions of a working Cold Fusion system. If so, because of such a public disclosure, no one can ever patent the general concept of exploiting Cold Fusion at large.
But what can still be patented is a specific configuration for generating excess energy through Cold Fusion that works better than other systems. There are going to be numerous opportunities for identifying technical improvements that will reduce costs and make the basic invention more valuable.
In the course of the interview I gave the example of Alexander Graham Bell. Bell definitely invented a mechanism and system that could function as a telephone. Essentially, his idea was to use a voice pickup which operated on the basis of magnetic induction. This is the mechanism by which, when a wire is moved in a magnetic field, this forces a current flow within the wire. Conversely, when current flow creates a magnetic field, this field can create motion, as by moving an iron plate and thereby generating sound. Bell’s concept was to use the human voice to generate current at a source and then transfer the current to a receiver which also operated on the basis of magnetic induction. Bell’s original concept could be duplicated today by simply joining two loudspeakers, one a transmitting loudspeaker that serves as a microphone, and another that acts as a receiving loudspeaker. Talking into one loudspeaker will cause a change in the magnetic field within the transmitting loudspeaker which would generate a current which will carry down the wire and provide a reverse effect at the receiving end. This is what Bell invented.
However, with the technology of 1876, this invention would not have supported a practical telephone network. The reason is that the human voice does not provide very much energy for sending a signal down a wire. It was not until after six months from obtaining his US patent that Bell was able to send a very weak signal a distance of 18 miles, from the Cambridge to Salem Massachusetts. It took another in event to make the telephone system truly practical.
A year after Bell obtained his patent Thomas Edison filed to obtain a patent on a “carbon” microphone. Another person, Emile Berliner also invented the same structure. In both cases, powdered carbon was compacted and relaxed by pressure arising from a membrane into which people would speak. This would vary the resistance of the carbon and, with a large voltage applied across the entire circuit, send a substantial current down the wire that varied in accordance with the sound spoken into the microphone. The carbon microphone “modulated” the current flow in step with the spoken words of the person speaking into the microphone. This allowed the transmission of telephone signals to a more distant receiver. The carbon microphone made the telephone practical. Carbon microphones were in use in the standard telephone handset up until around 1980 when piezo-electric microphones came into more general use.
The same path for making progressive innovations is likely to apply in respect of Cold Fusion. Initially Cold Fusion may only generate energy as a trickle. The temperature may not be very high. The source of energy might be depleted quickly and have to be regenerated. Under these circumstances, there will always be creative individuals who will see opportunities to improve the delivery of Cold Fusion energy. In this future world there will be a race to make improvements to help make the basic idea work better.
As a consequence of my interview with James Martinez, I also came to a realization that surprised me. I suggested that any investor who wants to take advantage of the potential of this the future opportunity would be well advised to assemble now a team of individuals to study the situation. The first thing to do is to survey the literature. I suggest initially a team of four individuals.
As I envisage it, the team would include one very experienced physicist. This would be a person who understands and can distinguish good physics from bad physics. This person would provide guidance to the team to differentiate between hot leads and the dead ends.
The second person on the team would be a journalist. This journalist would initially be responsible to guide the search for and examination of the literature that exists worldwide on the subject of Cold Fusion. The object of the team will be to garner-in all of the wisdom that has accumulated to date on this subject. The challenge will be to separate the kernels of truth from the mountain of chaff that already exists. A journalist will have the skill and enthusiasm to labor through all of the literature in search of the truth and guide other members of the team in this exercise.
As a further individual on this team, I would suggest a graduate student, possibly somebody working towards their PhD. This person would assist the journalist and work under the tutelage of the physicist in analyzing concepts. Indeed, it may be appropriate that there be two such individuals on the team. These individuals will provide youth and energy, creativity and imagination, to the group. They will also support other members of the team in doing the work. It will be an invigorating experience for them, quite possibly the experience of a lifetime.
The last individual on the team could, on reflection, be a patent attorney. I confess that I am a patent attorney myself, so perhaps I am prejudiced in making this suggestion. But a patent attorney would bring rigor to the analysis of the group, establishing standards for accurately and concisely recording ideas and thoughts. A good patent attorney is able to judge whether the technology being presented is valid or not. A good patent attorney will always ask the question: “What other ways are there to obtain this result?” Having a patent attorney on the team will complement the skills of the other individuals. And he will be able sniff-out patenting opportunities when they arise.
I envisage such a team as being egalitarian. That is there would be, amongst team members, no leader. They would meet and decide amongst themselves how each individual is to spend their time. In case of disagreements that cannot be resolved, there should be someone outside the team who can arbitrate issues. But so long as the team is able to guide its own efforts, there would be no leader. The object would be for everyone to learn the skills of the other members, and working together, get the job done.
And what would that job be? One job would be to understand who out there is already in the lead and is getting it right. From the direction that this apparent winner is heading, their job would be to look for consequences, secondary and tertiary consequences that would flow from eventual success. Then investments could be made that are directed to such secondary and tertiary consequences. For example, it may be that Cold Fusion will be ideally suited as the energy source for a Stirling engine. In such event, investors may wish to support existing Stirling engine fabricators.
Another role for this team would be to become inventors themselves. Having become knowledgeable in the field, they could identify bottlenecks, and brainstorm as to how to best overcome the bottlenecks. Breakthroughs would not be certain. But if they were to occur, they, like the carbon microphone, may prove to be of immense value.
Those were my thoughts after the interview ended. However I also had a further thought. Perhaps teams like these have already been formed. Indeed, they may have been formed in distant countries where governments are more foresighted and recognize that, when a technology of stupendous importance is at stake, it’s highly desirable to make an investment in understanding what’s going on, just in case.