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Defensive Invention

Fortnightly Magazine - October 2008

That will be very helpful for us. We’ve created uses cases on plug-in hybrid vehicles that we’ve made available to EPRI and SAE International, and we haven’t patented those. Our intent is to ensure we can use the system as intended. Whether we ultimately succeed in making these claims and making it available to the industry as open source, or if there are claims of prior art that make it open source, at the end of the day this is about providing value for customers.


Fortnightly: Given your defensive intent, why not assign the patent to an organization like EPRI, which could ensure it’s available to everyone?

DiMartini: We did this work as employees of Edison, and our inventions are automatically assigned to the company. That’s part of our employment. But should Edison assign the patent to someone else? That’s something we’re taking a look at. The most important part to us is that it remains royalty free for the industry. The challenge in discussions we’ve had is there isn’t any clear group that others would feel comfortable is a neutral party. For the time being we are staying with Edison as the assignee of the patent.

The open-source repository will resolve that in the future, because it will be the neutral party.


Fortnightly: If the methods in your patent will be made available in a royalty-free license, why do you think the technology community is so concerned about the patent?

DiMartini: I’m not sure exactly. Some people might not have read the patent, and are getting the information second-hand. Or people at technology companies might have been concerned that this patent extends to technology, and that’s not the case. It covers derivative-use cases or requirements that the utility comes up with, but it doesn’t extend beyond that.

When we’ve met with people and showed them the draft license agreement, they seem to understand what we’re doing, and we haven’t had any negative reaction after that. We’re looking to do the right thing, and we have done so from the outset.



1. See for example: “Metering in Real Time: A New Cost Equation for Electric Utilities,” by Jack King, Sept. 1, 1997; “Reliability in Power Delivery Where Technology and Politics Meet,” by Karl Stahlkopf and Philip R. Sharp, Jan. 15, 1998; “Demand Response: An Overview of Enabling Technologies,” by Robert H. Staunton, et. al, Nov. 1, 2001; “Advanced Metering: Policy-makers Have the Ball,” by Chris King and Dan Delurey, Sept. 15, 2002; and “What is an Advanced Meter,” by Sharon Allan, Fortnightly’s Energy Customer Management.