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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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August 24, 2006

Respect! Honor! Recognition! All For $149.95!

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Posted by Derek

Turns out that I had another patent issued the other day. The way I usually find out about these things isn't through a note from the US Patent and Trademark Office - they have enough to do already. And it's not via a note from my company, although they do eventually mark the event in a way that's dear to my heart and which shows up in my paycheck. No, the quickest notification is via junk mail from the patent plaque companies.

If you're not in an industry that does a lot of patenting, you might not have run across these people. What they do is offer (for a price, naturally) a wall plaque to show off your patent. These come in all sorts of designs and combinations - just Google the phrase "patent plaques" and you'll get all the options you could ever need. It's a competitive business, and the real go-getters use the latest updates to the patent databases as their mailing lists.

What I find interesting is the language that the brochures use. They seem aimed at people with self-esteem issues. The words "respect" and "recognition" occur frequently, as do "accomplishment" and "achievement". Einstein and Edison come up more often than they do in normal conversation. The more expensive options (better-looking wood, more three-dimensional etching in the metal, what have you) are pitched to some hypothetical audience of demanding achievers who would clearly settle for nothing less. The general tone of the copy is similar to the ads you find in airline in-flight magazines, set relentlessly to a level that's designed to flatter the intended audience and play to their fantasies.

Many of the pitches thus seem to be aimed at individual inventors who have been issued their first patent and want to let everyone know about it. I'm sure that's a big part of the market, and the rest of it is probably taken up by large companies who get a discount on their orders for their employees. I have a stack of the things myself, given to me by the companies I've worked for. I don't mind having them, but they're not on my wall, and I'd never order one on my own - not least because you can't get anything out of these outfits for less than about $70 for the El Cheapo Maximo model. The Deluxe Edisonian Hyperventilator plaques can go up past $300, by which time you're looking at rich Corinthian leather and who knows what else. I await the future LCD-screen option that displays a moving model of the invention.

Comments (17) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Patents and IP


1. SleeplessInSF on August 24, 2006 11:21 PM writes...

Rich Corinthian level? Is that so you can make sure your plaque is plumb? ;^)

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2. SJB on August 25, 2006 2:28 AM writes...

"Moving Model"?

Would that in your (and hopefully my) case be a graphic movie of the preferred molecule's synthetic route, its (believed) binding mode, the evolution of the SAR (with psychedelic traffic lights for the various assays?) ...

The mind boggles ;)

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3. Petros on August 25, 2006 4:07 AM writes...

There was a time when inventors' copies of assignments, at least in the UK, came with a proper seal on them, so they looked fairly impressive.

Intersting to note that your company gives you a (small?) sum in respect of the filing/grant. It was a sore point with mu collegaues and I in that the same company did not apply this across all countries in which named inventors worked.

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4. secret milkshake on August 25, 2006 5:27 AM writes...

The one patent comemorative plaque I got from my company hangs in my restroom right above the porcelain water tank :)

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5. Derek Lowe on August 25, 2006 7:10 AM writes...

Fixed that level/leather typo. I don't think all of my CNS is back in this time zone yet.

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6. waiting4data on August 25, 2006 7:20 AM writes...

Your company acknowledges your approved patent by a noticable change in your paycheck???? I have worked for two major pharm companies -- one company gave us $1 for the filing of the application, and the other throws a "patent award banquet" and gives a plaque. I think your company has the right idea!

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7. JB on August 25, 2006 8:44 AM writes...

And in academia, you have to sell you claim to the patent to the university for 1 dollar. I've yet to see my share of the dollar for my patents.

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8. enzgrrl on August 25, 2006 11:21 AM writes...

My husband and I have taken the frugal route to patent-related self-aggrandizement. We printed the first pages and framed them ourselves.
For those who want more public recognition, the image can easily be transferred to a T-shirt.

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9. SJB on August 25, 2006 11:26 AM writes...

re: enzgrrl's comment

Not like a certain natural product that may or may not have been synthesised recently?


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10. Steven Jens on August 25, 2006 4:33 PM writes...

I'm not likely to produce anything patentable myself, but someone with my name graduated from MIT 15 years before I did. Like me, he still lives in the Boston metro area, or at least did last I knew. I got a solicitation once for a plaque for a patent in his field.

Derek, I don't suppose anyone has tried to sell you a plaque commemorating your world series victory?

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11. Anonymous on August 26, 2006 9:56 PM writes...

I work for a major pharmaceutical company and we do not get anything for a patent. Maybe I should suggest it. I could have a dozen plaques piled in my closet.

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12. Don B. on August 27, 2006 11:07 AM writes...

You are fortunate to work for a company that puts something extra in your check. I was always told that the one dollar was submerged in my check.
Once you no longer work for the company, the advertisements are a good way to keep up with additional patents that are issued in your name~0)).

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13. eugene on August 27, 2006 11:22 AM writes...

If you want money from your old company for a patent, you could always just sue them like this guy did.

Of course, your patent needs to actually make some money.

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14. skatesailor on August 28, 2006 12:18 AM writes...

Plaque ads, as Don B. points out, promptly notify you that you've been granted a patent, which you might not learn quickly if you depended on your employer. For a time, my former employer -- a major pharmaceutical company -- made a practice of sending me commemorative plaques. But I never valued the plaques as much as secret milkshake, so I prevailed on our patent lawyers to send them directly to my refuse collector.

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15. milo on August 29, 2006 7:39 PM writes...

You know, when I was in industry, as a fresh BS graduate, I was able to get two fancy patents. You had better believe that I got both those bad boys in plaque form! I also got the mug and the mouse pad.

Now, I am not sure I would... I was just proud back then ;-)

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16. Nicole on September 19, 2006 4:43 PM writes...

My grandfather was issued a patent many years ago. For his birthday this year, I presented him with a display case that could display the actual patent. He loved it, even after so many years had passed. I think people are just tired of wall plaques. Something a little more unique or practical might be better.

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17. Anonymous BMS Researcher on November 19, 2008 6:03 PM writes...

I recently tossed a pitch for a patent plaque, but I guess this was from an inferior company because the choices did not include Corinthian Leather, only various sorts of metal or wood.

I also just chucked a different form of ego-based marketing: a pitch from an outfit called Cambridge Who's Who offering to list me in their directory of allegedly-prominent people (not that I am particularly prominent nor do I wish to be). I come from an academic family so I know which of these directories will actually be found in library collections; NOT these folks.

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