Project Minotaur has yielded 22 patent applications, and counting.
“We put a priority on patenting our innovation, but this number of applications for a single project is something we see more often from hip technology companies rather than a 175-year-old equipment manufacturer,” said Brady Lewis, Program Manager.
A lot of the innovation in Project Minotaur is the novel combination of tools used in dozers and compact track loaders. What’s “new” is the varied functionality this single machine will bring to a work site. This unique combination of functions is driving the patent submissions.
For instance, some of the patents focus on the basic Minotaur concept with a quick-disconnecting Dozer Blade. Others focus on specific details of the implementation, for example, the protection of hoses from debris or improvements for operator serviceability.
“It’s usually a challenge, because we engineers like to look for the simplest or most obvious solutions to challenges. We may come up with an elegant solution and not appreciate that it is patentable,” Lewis explained. “But we set out to accomplish something novel with Project Minotaur, and found ourselves taking our expertise and innovating ways to deliver it.”
“More than half of our patent applications emerged from the early phases of the project.”
That makes sense, since combining the performance attributes of a dozer with a CTL presented a set of basic form and function challenges. Interestingly, the team discovered multiple ways to accomplish it, and submitted patent applications on those they would use in the device, and others that may provide value later on.
“Something might not be practical for this project, but we could use it on another one,” Lewis added.
The process relies on both operational and then legal review, as every potential patent is “published” internally so that fresh and informed eyes can look at each case. Project Minotaur spun off nearly three such “invention disclosures” for every two that passed muster and resulted in an application.
After all, it’s all about what’s practical and about finding solutions that add to the ROI for the customer running the machine.