Inventions are an important product of research. They are not automatically used, even when improvement has been demonstrated.
In petroleum exploration and production, many operations such as well logging, drilling, well completion, etc., are not ordinarily carried out by the oil companies. Inventions in such lines usually must be licensed to service companies. Frequently such licenses accelerate commercialization much beyond in company development.
Service companies find their own inventions can be applied more readily with patent protection than without.
Ordinarily an independent researcher can only profit from a new idea by selling or licensing his patent.
Most research workers do not deliberately try to invent. They try to find a reasonable answer to a problem. The new method, or apparatus, or composition, which is a suitable answer to his problem may already be publicly available. However, frequently no one has thought of it before. Such a solution is patentable. To the research worker this may be of only academic interest, unless he works for himself. If (as the usual case in the petroleum industry) he is an employee, the fact that it is capable of being patented may be of great practical importance.
Research results just do not get automatically used. The situations in which the world is waiting to beat a path through the woods to the home of the better mouse trap maker are extremely few and far between. Often the attempts of the innovator to get his new idea in use are met with indifference; frequently with active opposition. Anyone who holds a job is usually proud of his work. He owes his position to the fact that he does it competently, why should he risk his reputation to try some new-fangled idea? It is frequently observed, and I think truly, that most of us resist change. Change represents insecurity. Let somebody else try the new idea. At this point, the innovator finds himself, or his supervisor, in the role of salesman. Now innovators are not necessarily gifted with diplomacy nor the instinctive ability to share the other man's thoughts which characterizes a good salesman. Accordingly, it may be very hard to get cooperation. If the innovator in despair attempts to get the general management to ramrod the new idea, he frequently finds he has merely set up additional hurdles. It is in this situation where the patentable nature of his new idea may be of much greater importance than he visualizes.
Obviously the mere existence of a patent opens no doors. However, the existence of the patent does offer an advantage, since it automatically offers the opportunity of enabling companies or individuals during its life to make a profit where they otherwise could not. This, of course, immediately enhances the interest of some people in the results of this research.
Let us narrow consideration for a minute to the research worker in the laboratory of an oil company who comes up with a new and patentable improvement.