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So That Happened: Racing to STEM recruitment, Winning Intellectual Property Disputes... in China

Oct. 19, 2022
IndustryWeek editors look at those stories and Meta's troubles bringing Facebook users to the Metaverse.

Editor’s note: Welcome to So That Happened, our editors’ takes on things going on in the manufacturing world that deserve some extra attention. This will appear regularly in the Member’s Only section of the site.

Pumped about Chinese Patent Infringement Case

Here’s something that happens more than you might think: a non-Chinese company wins a patent case against a Chinese company, in China.

In early October, Wanner Engineering, a family-run Minnesota-based manufacturer of high-pressure, sealless pumps sued industrial pumpmaker Shanghai Nikuni for infringing on one of its patents in China. The China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) ruled that Wanner’s patent was valid, and Shanghai Nikuni had indeed violated intellectual property law. The Chinese pumpmaker was ordered to pay damages and cease making the pump.

Wanner, a which has a subsidiary in China and 11 patents there (159 patents in the U.S.), also sued another counterfeiter in China and won that case in the CNIPA as well; that case is now in appeals.

According to research by Rejun Bian in the Berkley Technology Law Journal, foreign patent holders were just as likely to take intellectual property cases to court in China as their domestic counterparts, and won their cases more often. The research looked at all patent infringement cases in China in 2014, so an update is warranted.

Wanner CEO Bill Wanner is, of course, pleased he went to the trouble of litigating. “We want to continue delivering the most technological advanced pumps in the world and the only way to do that is by investing heavily in R&D,” he said in a press release about the wins. “And the only way we can keep doing that is by ensuring that we protect this investment from illegal counterfeiting.”

Laura Putre

Will Sponsoring a Formula Car Attract Diverse Talent?

Technology companies are under pressure to bring in more diverse talent. Smartsheet, a software company notes that the “dramatic juxtaposition between the high unemployment of Black professionals and the plethora of career opportunities within the technology sector shows a huge blind spot that needs a solution.”

So, it’s hoping that since the United States Grand Prix is in Austin, Texas, watched by tens of millions of people, why not let a nonprofit that is working to bring more Black Talent to tech take the company’s sponsored place on McLaren’s Formula 1 at the Grand Prix? The company chose The Hidden Genius Project, as its Sponsor X.

The Hidden Genius Project trains and mentors Black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship and leadership skills. The organization has since equipped over 8,000 young Black males with the skills, mentors, and experiences they need to become high-performing entrepreneurs and technologists in a 21st century, global economy. 

In addition to the race, which took place on October 19th, fifty students across two Austin high schools will participate in discussions and workshops to learn about coding and the intersection of sports and technology. The workshops will be led by Genius program alumni and technologists from Smartsheet, Splunk, Salesforce and Google. The students will also get behind-the-scenes access to the Circuit of the Americas racetrack and meet McLaren Formula 1 driver Lando Norris.

—Adrienne Selko

Meta’s Metaverse Is Struggling? Huh.

My disdain for the idea of the metaverse is obvious from other columns and posts I’ve written on IndustryWeek so it’s with no small measure of schaudenfreude that I noted reports this week about Meta (formerly Facebook) having considerable trouble getting anyone to use its flagship Metaverse realm, “Horizon Worlds.”

I can’t tell you what goes on (or is supposed to go on) in Horizon Worlds because like most people, I’d warrant, I have plenty of things going on in the real world and little time to sit in a chair with a pair of VR goggles strapped to my face. But looking at the numbers gleaned from internal Meta documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal, we’re not missing much.

Meta wanted 500,000 active monthly Horizon Worlds users by the end of the year and since revised that to 280,000 as the current number stands at less than 200,000. Reflect that Facebook has almost 3 billion monthly active users. Most users don’t return after the first month they spend exploring Horizon Worlds.

Meta employees were reportedly encouraged to hold meetings in a VR app called Horizon Workrooms, but apparently employees of the company championing the Metaverse mostly don’t own VR headsets themselves.

What does this mean for the manufacturing world? Chances are that manufacturers wouldn’t have been holding meetings in communal, open, online worlds anyway. Point-to-point meetings in private virtual spaces sound more realistic, so even if the idea of the metaverse collapses tomorrow this probably wouldn’t affect any companies currently using the tech for remote meetings. But manufacturers are primarily embracing VR/AR for remote assistance and training applications and they’re very smart ways to utilize the technology. If you spend any time reading about or researching VR/AR tech, focus on what’s actually being done, not Mark Zuckerberg’s dying dream.

Dennis Scimeca

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