Who invented it? Patents at thyssenkrupp
Every day our engineers research and develop the innovations of tomorrow across departments and sectors. Protecting their intellectual property is the job of the Intellectual Property department at thyssenkrupp. It oversees the patenting of our products and ensures that thyssenkrupp remains competitive.
For International Intellectual Property Day, we spoke to our patent experts and asked them what matters when it comes to protecting new inventions.
In the name of intellectual property
The Intellectual Property department - IP for short - has a long tradition at thyssenkrupp. As early as 1895, Friedrich Krupp AG, our predecessor company, filed its first patent application. The seamless rolled wheel-tire revolutionized railroads at the time and is still reflected in the group's logo today. Since then, thyssenkrupp has registered hundreds of patents every year.
Today, the colleagues cover a wide range of services in the field of intellectual property. Their tasks range from searches and competition monitoring, to patent and trademark applications, and managing the patent portfolios of various business units. "In addition, the IP department is committed to enforcing our patent rights," explains Dr. Stephan Wolke, Head of Intellectual Property & Services and CEO of thyssenkrupp Intellectual Property GmbH. "This is important, for example, if competitors infringe patent law and an invention by thyssenkrupp is used unlawfully to gain a competitive advantage."
Expertise protecting innovation
o meet these demanding tasks, the Patent Department team brings together many different skills in the fields of intellectual property and patents across mechanical, electrical, and plant engineering. Together as a team, patent and trademark attorneys, patent engineers, and patent and trademark specialists ensure that investments in research and development at thyssenkrupp pay off in the long term. After all, new developments cost a lot of time and money.
"Patents ensure that the inventors of an idea benefit from it and not those who copy it," explains Dr. Stephan Wolke. Although it is difficult to quantify the economic impact of the Group's patents, it can be assumed that technological progress is the biggest selling point for thyssenkrupp's products and services, says the expert. Patents, therefore, ensure that the market position is improved and competition remains fair.
Innovation is teamwork
Inventions begin with a vision. And often it's not just one clever individual behind it, but a whole team. So how do you find out about new inventions in a group of companies as big as thyssenkrupp? The patent department has placed IP and brand coordinators in each business unit. "These are colleagues who are the first point of contact for all questions related to intellectual property," explains Dr. Stephan Wolke. "They supervise and coordinate the filing of invention disclosures, ideas for trademarks, possible infringements, and questions about contracts and licenses."
The importance not only of this patent work across business units but also of active cooperation in the teams of engineers became particularly clear during the Corona pandemic. While some 600 new patents were filed in previous years, the pandemic caused only 266 new applications to be filed in 2020/2021. "You quickly realize: innovation doesn't happen in isolation," says Dr. Stephan Wolke. In addition to the will to progress and innovate, the creative collaboration of engineers and inventors is the driving force behind new ideas and new developments.
This climate of cooperation has a long tradition at thyssenkrupp and its success proves us right. Since the seamless rolled railway tire that enabled trains to travel at more than 30 km/h for the first time in the 19th century, numerous innovations that change our everyday lives have followed and continue to follow every year. A more recent example is Carbon2Chem, a technology that reduces CO2 emissions - both in steel and in chemical production - and thus contributes to a more sustainable industry.