John McCormack explains how patents result in a win-win situation

To patent or not to patent? That is the question John McCormack has been helping Hebel to answer for several years.

John, a patent attorney and a principal of Australian Patent Attorney firm Griffith Hack, works closely with Hebel and other CSR divisions to assist in having patents granted for various inventions.

He describes a patent as a contract between the government and the owner of an invention through which the owner has exclusive right to the invention for a maximum of 20 years. As part of the contract, the inventor is required to describe the invention in a written document.

As John explains, this results in a win-win situation.

“In return for a limited 20-year monopoly, the inventor teaches the world about his idea and his invention so that when the patent expires, the technology of that patent is available for everybody to use, free of charge and for ever,” he said.

In his work with Hebel, John analyses new ideas or innovations to evaluate whether they warrant the filing of a patent application.

“If I decide it’s well worth pursuing, then I write as much as I can about what the invention is, what it does, how it can be made and what it’s used for,” he said. “This forms the basis of the written description which is known as the patent specification.”

This description, along with other documents, is then lodged at the relevant patent office which is the final determining authority as to whether a patent will be granted.

John’s work with Hebel over the past few years has brought him into association with a range of innovative products which he has guided through the patenting process. Among these are:

  • The Hebel Perforated TopHat used for installing Hebel PowerPanel XL external wall systems in residential homes and low rise multi-residential projects. The wall panels are fixed vertically to the specially engineered perforated Top Hat sections attached to the steel or timber load bearing stud frame. While the Hebel systems are noted for their speed and ease of installation, the Top Hat features predrilled holes which locate and guide the fasteners being used to make the installation work even faster.

“Hebel comes up with some really ingenious ideas, and the Top Hat is one of them,” said John. “It’s simple but it’s also clever, and it’s saving a lot of time.”

  • The PowerFence Bracket, a bracket system specially designed for use with Hebel panels in PowerFence construction. PowerFence is a modular fencing system, suitable for boundary fencing, low front walls and sloping sites.

The brackets used for the fencing facilitate a large variety of fence configurations, as they can be rotated around the fence post for easy installation. They can also be separated vertically on the post to allow panels to be “stepped” for sloping terrain.

“This is another clever design by Hebel,” said John. “As mirror images of each other, each pair of brackets makes it possible to cover almost all combinations in any fence – for example, it can be straight, it can be inclined at an angle or it can be used to form corners.”

  • Hebel Hoist is another invention that John has guided through to the granting of a patent. This involves a lifting system which facilitates the installation of boundary and intertenancy fire-rated walls in areas with limited access. The lifting device attaches directly to the framework of the construction, enabling panels to be lifted from above and transported to the required location to be installed. This allows panels to be slid into place and fixed from the interior of the building.

These are just a few of the innovative products that John has assisted Hebel with to obtain patents, with many other smart products to come. A current work in progress is the PowerFloor+ Multi-lifter.

John describes this as “a very exciting project” that will enable multiple panels to be lifted simultaneously using inserts located within the Hebel panels. “This reduces enormously the time for building PowerFloors in high rise buildings,” he said.

Overall, he finds his work stimulating and exciting, as well as challenging, to obtain comprehensive protection to assist Hebel’s marketing plans and strategies.

“CSR are very innovative, and they use their patents sensibly to protect their market,” he said. “At the same time, the information that goes into their patent documents will eventually be available for anybody in the world to use when the patents expire.

“In this way, the patent system creates a major benefit for mankind, providing a springboard for people to come up with their own inventions in the future.”

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