NASA will enter into a range of different patent license agreements from no-cost evaluation licenses up to exclusive license. The agency’s goal in licensing technologies is to reach the widest distribution possible for the commercialized technology. To some, it may seem unusual that exclusive licenses would be part of NASA’s licensing options if the goal was truly the widest distribution possible. “We’ll only grant an exclusive license if we believe that exclusivity leads to the widest distribution,” Lockney said, noting that there were a couple of examples where such a situation could play out. An exclusive license for the broadest possible distribution could make sense if the technology was being commercialized in a medical device and a single multinational company offers an incredibly broad distribution model; such was the case with a flexible insulating plastic material for use with pacemaker wires recently licensed by NASA with Medtronic. In other situations where multiple companies occupy the same market, NASA might grant an exclusive license to one company if it’s determined that, without the exclusivity, none of the firms could invest adequately in commercializing the technology.
One of the more active areas during this round of public comments collected by the Copyright Office involves the prohibitions against circumvention for Proposed Class 21, which covers vehicle software for diagnosis, repair or modification. John Deere also suggests that enabling these exemptions could encourage the piracy of copyrighted music or film recordings by tampering with infotainment software systems installed on vehicles. As well, modifying vehicle software to reduce the car’s maximum speed when lending it to a teenager or activate lights when the windshield wipers are turned on, both of which are suggested by John Deere, constitutes commercial activity which goes against non-profit fair use principles used to consider exemptions.
Corporate investment into research and development at John Deere has also fallen slightly but the company did manage to maintain a $341.1 million R&D investment during the most recent fiscal quarter. Since the beginning of 2015, Deere & Company has received a total of 92 patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. According to Innography’s text cluster (see left), much of Deere’s innovation is focused on work vehicles, tractors and harvesters. We were intrigued to note, however, that a sizable chunk of Deere’s recent inventions relate to a display screen with icon, indicating a healthy amount of software development at the company.
A type of harvester that utilizes a hybrid electric drive system is featured within U.S. Patent No. 8897943, which is titled Battery Electric Hybrid Drive for a Combine Harvester. This patent protects a hybrid drive system. The invention provides a harvester that meets emission guidelines regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency while supporting operation of the harvester’s internal combustion engine.