CIVIL ENGINEERING & PATENT LAW  
This website illustrates how Civil Engineers may make greater use of the Global Patent System to Promote Progress in their Field.
The American Founders included Patent Rights in the United States Constitution to Promote Progress.
September 2013:  Quarterly Report of U.S. Patenting
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Figure taken from US 8,438,795, issued on May 14, 2013
      Based on numbers made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the United States issued about 350 total patents in its patent classes having significant civil engineering subject matter.  About half of those issued patents, totaling a little less than 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 in turn. 
      
Structural Engineering

     The USPTO issued about 130 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, support structures for buildings, and anchor systems. 

     The Simpson Strong-Tie Company, Inc., typically the leader in patented structural engineering innovation, led patenting in this area over the past few months.  Other notable patentees over the past summer included T&M Inventions, LLC (an apparent non-practicing entity), Valinge Innovation AB (a Swedish manufacturer holding a significant global patent portfolio),  Plattforms, Inc. (a Utah-based precast concrete manufacturer), Ultimate Strength Cable, LLC (a relatively new Oklahoma company and apparent non-practicing entity), and Frederick S. Marshall, a prolific individual inventor out of Texas.

     Exemplary innovations in structural engineering patented over the past few months include US 8,438,795, which claims a seismic hysteretic damper developed by a team of inventors from earthquake-prone Turkey, and US 8,484,911, directed to another seismic invention involving a sliding pendulum isolation system.  US 8,464,477 claims yet another exemplary invention in seismic engineering, disclosing a novel energy dissipation device.

     Another exemplary invention, patented as US 8,453,414, claims a novel method and apparatus for providing a moment-resisting connection between a beam and a column.  Another invention for providing a moment-resisting connection, US 8,468,775, claims a moment-resistant building column utilizing pretensioned through-bolts.

     Two exemplary inventions in the area of precast concrete include US 8,453,406, claiming a novel girder and floor system, and US 8,468,766, disclosing an innovative flange connection for precast concrete members.  Some additional inventions receiving issued patents over the past summer include US 8,453,412, which sets forth a novel spring bolt hangar device for concrete structures, US 8,454,264, claiming an innovative expansion joint system, and US 8,464,497, directed to a new stay cable concept for a wind turbine structure.         
             
Geotechnical Engineering

     The USPTO issued about 30 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 piles.  One prominent patent filer during the past few months in this area was Kontek Industries, an innovator in force protection and security solutions.     

     Some exemplary geotechnical engineering inventions awarded patents during the past few months include innovations in pile technology such as US 8,506,207, claiming a novel helical screw pile, US 8517640, directed to a new method for load testing piles, and US 8,444,349, disclosing a novel method for forming a grouted pile splice.  Other inventions in geotechnical engineering receiving patents during the past summer include US 8,443,573, claiming a foundation designed to resist blasts, and US 8,448,397, relating to a novel anchor system for use with concrete structures.   

Bridge Engineering

     The USPTO issued about five patents over the past few months in areas that civil engineers would likely view as bridge engineering.  Some of these inventions include US 8,458,839, claiming a method for bridge replacement utilizing precast concrete construction, and US 8,474,080, directed to a construction method for composite steel bridges.  The USPTO also awarded US 8,484,787 to inventor George Z. Voyiadjis, a professor of civil engineering at Louisiana State University, for a novel fender system designed to protect a bridge pier from a vessel collision.         

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 civil engineering invention in this area includes US 8,496,404, assigned on its face to the FYFE Company, claiming a method for increasing the lateral stability of flood walls.
U.S. Civil Engineering Patenting:  May 2013 to August 2013