Faced with a problem at a server company, I came up with a solution which lead to a patent – my first! Not only was it gratifying to be creative in that way, but also to do so while in Sales, not in Engineering!
The company had been trying to solve the customer’s requirements with our current chip offering. There had been many meetings. I took the problem home with me in my head, and wrestled with it. I made some drawings, wrote up a brief description, and then presented it to the team. They critiqued it from a technical, risk, and cost point of view. It passed muster, and we presented it to the customer. It used only chips which we already had in production, and actually reduced the system cost for the customer.
I built a demonstration of the solution, using a series of our own PCB’s interconnected with cables. Unfortunately this customer had other issues with the program, so the idea never went to production.
But the company gained in reputation by providing a timely, creative solution. And I gained, on recommendation from a senior engineer, by filing for and being granted a patent!
Later, after the company had produced a long series of HDMI/HDCP chips, I was trying to find a solution for a customer for which the current chip offering would not work directly. Encryption in a source device allows it to output content, but does not deal well with the translation of that content through a ‘dongle’. The conventional solution is to decrypt the content in the dongle, reformat it, then re-encrypt it with new keys. All of this makes for a more complex solution – and more expensive.
My solution did not require additional encryption keys, and saved cost.
It also lead to another patent!
This kind of “out of the box” thinking has helped me to succeed as an Application Engineer – leading the customer to a solution, without my having to put the “finishing touches” on the product design. That phase can remain with the expertise – and satisfaction – of the customer!
A side effect of my working through many patent applications was my appointment to chair the patent efforts within the company, worldwide. This solved the problem of having no technical person to lead the patent effort after the CTO left the company. The actions I took included reviewing others’ patent applications, shepherding applications through the filing and office action processes, providing training about the company’s patent process (in the US, in China and in India), and working closely with budding inventors to put their ideas into writing.
The result was a more energetic patent pipeline, involving more people, including software and marketing engineers.