Not everything has been invented—yet

Without feedback, product designers never know whether their product is and will be a success. By voting for the Product of the Year Finalists, you can help give the building industry's product manufacturers some feedback.


Urban legend claims that Henry L. Ellsworth, the first commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office, said that “everything that could be invented had already been invented.” Whether you believe this legend or not, this statement itself is certainly not true. Ellsworth, an early technology adapter, saw the Colt revolver, the Morse telegraph, and the steam plow patented while he was serving his 10 years (1835-1845) in the federal agency, now known as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Performance and Accountability Report (fiscal year 2012), the number of patents issued has steadily increased over the past 5 years. In 2012, for example, 270,258 patents were issued, up from 244,430 in 2011. Back in 2008, a mere 182,556 were issued. These numbers don’t reflect the applications that were pending or that were turned down.

The patent war rages on. According to IFI Claims Patent Services, the top firms to obtain patents in 2012 were some of the usual suspects: IBM, Microsoft, and General Electric took the top three slots in the United States. Other big names that you might recognize from our industry: General Electric, Siemens, and Honeywell.

I’m not a patent attorney (though I’ve learned that I could be because I have a science degree), but to me this upward tick in patents looks positive. U.S. inventors—and those who want their products patented in the United States—continue to create new products and systems, remaining at the forefront of innovation.

Consulting engineers typically have been slow to adopt new technologies. Marketers realize this and work to provide as much information as possible to prospective specifiers and customers. Success stories—with quantitative data proving results—also help engineers “see” the success of a new system or product. Without feedback, however, product designers never know whether their product is and will be a success.

By voting on the 2013 Product of the Year Finalists, you can help the industry advance by giving manufacturers feedback on new products. Because all of these products were all introduced in 2012, you may not have yet specified them into a building. Based on your knowledge of building systems, however, you should be a pretty good judge of the viability of these technologies. All 112 products have been categorized for you so that you can select among the 10 categories, voting on those areas in which you have expertise.

Voting for Product of the Year remains open until June 28, and is open only to subscribers. By voting in this program, you’re helping to shape the future technologies in the building system industry. You’re also reminding manufacturers of why their product engineers should continue to innovate.

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