Patents, freeform architecture and ship building

September 7, 2011 at 12:09
filed under Architecture

We thank everyone who participated in the interesting discussion that has been going on in the community for some weeks, about the two Patents SUPPORTING STRUCTURE FOR FREEFORM SURFACES IN BUILDINGS and SUPPORTING STRUCTURE FOR CURVED ENVELOPE GEOMETRIES.

We value different views on this topic as well as constructive comments or questions. We have collected some questions that seem to be of general interest and want to provide some answers from the Evolute side in this blog post. Some questions were very specific and were touching the legal interpretations of the patents scope and content. To provide a professional answer for this type of questions, we have asked our patent attorney to give his expert assessment.

Question: Which architectural applications are patented ?
Answer from our patent attorney: The patents are not restricted to a particular architectural application (external, internal, rain protection, wind shelter, building facade, etc.). The patents include all structures fulfilling the claims defined in the patents.

Question: How is “freeform” defined ?
Answer from our patent attorney: Within the scope of the patents, freeform structures are defined as approximations to freeform surfaces which are double-curved surfaces. The patents do not claim smooth and continuous freeform surfaces as they originate from mathematical models. Instead, the patents claim improved methods for practically realizing freeform structures in architectural and ship-building applications which approximate freeform surfaces, as well as the final freeform structures as such. Special cases, such as rotational or translational structures and their extensions by Schlaich et al, which were known before the patents were filed, are prior art and are not considered freeform in the scope of the patents.

Question: Do the patents still apply when slight variations or perturbations are introduced to the result ?
Answer from our patent attorney: In most cases Yes. A patent cannot be circumvented by practical tolerances or obvious tricks as long as the result still makes use of the patented invention.

Question: Why does Evolute “cash in twice”, once with the software Plugin EvoluteTools and once with the patent license fee ?
Answer from Evolute: This interpretation seems to originate from a misconception of some important facts:

1. The functionality of EvoluteTools goes way beyond the patented technology.

2. The patents do not only belong to Evolute while Evolute is the only developer of EvoluteTools so there has to be a clear separation of these two products.

3. One of the main target groups of EvoluteTools, the designers, are the ones that might like to acquire EvoluteTools since we believe it offers design capabilities not available in any other tool, BUT THEY ARE NOT the ones who should pay for the patent license fee ! The patent license fee should be paid by those who actually save money with the technology, that is, clients, developers, or contractors. And in our experience there is no reason why those parties should dislike the idea of paying some money to save a lot more money. As a designer, you should see EvoluteTools as a professional, versatile design tool and the patents as a product you can sell your clients to lower costs and improve aesthetics.

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  1. A. Designer

    on September 7, 2011 at 16:25

    i think the simple question i would like to know is

    did you patent ALL planer double curved surfaces or just a specific technique for making them?

  2. admin

    on September 7, 2011 at 17:03

    Dear Designer,
    the patents claim specific types of supporting structures for freeform surfaces in Architecture and Ship-building and a particular method of creating the geometry for such a supporting structure.

  3. Patenting Geometry « Digital Morphogenesis | Evolving architecture through computation

    on September 8, 2011 at 02:11

    […] Evolute posted clarifications from their patent attorney on their blog. […]

  4. questions

    on September 8, 2011 at 15:40

    need some explanations, plz

  5. admin

    on September 8, 2011 at 17:06

    This document lists concerns about the novelty of the patent SUPPORTING STRUCTURE FOR CURVED ENVELOPE GEOMETRIES that were raised as part of the standard approval process of the patent. Since the patent has been approved eventually, it is obvious that these concerns were dropped and novelty could be proven successfully.


  6. Trevor Patt

    on September 15, 2011 at 18:22

    Thanks for the clarifications.