Patent Update: Prior Commercial Use Can Affect Patentability | AIChE

You are here

Patent Update: Prior Commercial Use Can Affect Patentability

Patent Update

Inventors sometimes decide to apply for a patent after the invention has been shown to have commercial value. However, an early commercial use by the patent applicant, rather than a competitor, can be detrimental to a later-filed patent. The case of Heat On-The-Fly’s U.S. Patent No. 8,171,993 shows the difficulties this mistake can cause.

The invention in the ’993 patent relates to hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Fracking is a process to fracture the geological formation surrounding the wellbore of an oil or gas well to increase the formation’s porosity and, thus, enhance hydrocarbon production. An aqueous suspension of solids known as proppants, typically sand, is heated and pressurized, then injected into the wellbore to create cracks in the surrounding formation. The pressure is then released, but the proppants remain in place, holding the cracks open and, thereby, maintaining the higher porosity.

A major component of the cost of fracking is the use of frac tanks, in which the fracking fluid is heated in batches to a temperature high enough to compensate for the heat loss that occurs during transfer of the fluid from the tanks to the well. The ’993 invention reduces this cost by heating only a portion of the fracking fluid in a continuous process. The portion to be heated is drawn into a bypass loop on the water...

Would you like to access the complete CEP Article?

No problem. You just have to complete the following steps.

You have completed 0 of 2 steps.

  1. Log in

    You must be logged in to view this content. Log in now.

  2. AIChE Membership

    You must be an AIChE member to view this article. Join now.

Copyright Permissions 

Would you like to reuse content from CEP Magazine? It’s easy to request permission to reuse content. Simply click here to connect instantly to licensing services, where you can choose from a list of options regarding how you would like to reuse the desired content and complete the transaction.