This website illustrates how Civil Engineers may make greater use of the Global Patent System to Promote Progress in their Field.
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December 2013:  Quarterly Report of U.S. Patenting
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Figure taken from US 8,511,004, issued on August 20, 2013
      Based on numbers made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the United States issued about 400 total patents in its patent classes having significant civil engineering subject matter between August 20, 2013, and November 19, 2013.  About half of those issued patents, totaling about 200 issued patents, claim subject matter that many civil engineers would probably consider as true "civil engineering" inventions, as opposed to inventions only loosely related to the field (e.g., windows, doors, dock levelers, and ceiling tiles).  The summary below divides this group of about 200 patents issued over the past few months into four groups (structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, bridge engineering, and hydraulic engineering), and discusses each group in turn. 
Structural Engineering

     The USPTO issued about 145 patents on inventions that civil engineers would likely classify as structural engineering subject matter.  The majority of these structural engineering inventions involved structural panels, modular structures, structural connectors, structural members and frames, reinforcement systems, support structures for buildings, and anchor systems. 

     The most prolific patentees over the past few months included Peikko Group, a concrete technology firm based in Finland, T&M Inventions, LLC (an apparent non-practicing entity), and product supplier MiTek.  Other notable patentees in recent months included Simpson Strong-Tie, a powerhouse in patented structural engineering innovation, and structural engineering technology leader Freyssinet.

     Innovations in structural engineering patented over the past few months included several reinforcing element inventions.  For example, US 8,534,022 claims innovative techniques for reinforcing concrete using twisted threaded reinforcing bars, US 8,516,757 sets forth a novel method for transferring forces in concrete structures using flexible elements, and US 8,534,015 discloses inventive reinforcement for concrete including fiber string. 

     Some other structural engineering inventions patented during the past few months include US 8,511,004, which claims new flooring for isolating sensitive objects from seismic vibrations, US 8,516,761, disclosing a novel expansion joint system, and US 8,555,593, claiming an innovative fireproofing system for wide flange steel shapes.  US 8,516,768, directed to a seismic anchoring system, provides another recent example of inventions in earthquake engineering.  Several wind engineering inventions also received patents in recent months, including US 8,511,044, claiming a structural connection for a wind turbine tower, and US 8,511,013, disclosing a wind turbine tower having fiber reinforced plastic strands.

     Recent structural engineering patents include numerous inventions of new structural members, connections, and systems.  For example, US 8,511,025 claims an innovative structural joint for a building including a damping member, US 8,528,268 describes a novel bracing structure for a building, US 8,511,033 discloses a new beam-column connection, and US 8,544,227 sets forth an inventive structural column.

     Two patents also issued to inventors at U.S. universities in the area of structural engineering during the past few months, including US 8,522,486 to the University of Maine for a new mold assembly for making a composite member, and US 8,539,725 to Penn State for a glass panel designed to resist seismic loading.  Computer industry giant Apple also received a structural engineering patent in recent months for US 8,544,217, claiming an innovative building system including glass panels.                         
Geotechnical Engineering

     The USPTO issued about 40 patents claiming inventions that civil engineers would probably classify as geotechnical engineering subject matter.  Many of these inventions involved foundation structures (e.g., footings and wind turbine foundations), anchor systems, and piling systems.  The leading patent filer during the past few months in this area was Geopier, an innovator in ground improvement.  Some other prominent patent filers in recent months included Quanta Associates and PilePro.     

     Some exemplary geotechnical inventions patented during the past few months include US 8,523,486, claiming a novel culvert assembly having precast sections, US 8,540,461, disclosing a new pile head assembly, and US 8,562,258, describing an innovative method for constructing aggregate columns.   

Bridge Engineering

     The USPTO issued about five patents over the past few months in areas that civil engineers would likely view as bridge engineering.  Exemplary inventions in this area include US 8,522,381, which claims an innovative method for bridge pier replacement, US 8,544,129, disclosing a novel composite bridge girder, and US 8,555,442, setting forth a new method for bridge construction.                

Hydraulic Engineering

     Many of the inventions patented in the area of hydraulic engineering over the past few months involve technologies related to civil engineering, such as offshore drilling concepts, flood barriers, ocean wave barriers, and erosion mitigation.  One exemplary invention in this area includes US 8,523,490, directed to a novel temporary platform for an offshore structure. 
U.S. Civil Engineering Patenting:  August 2013 to November 2013