Intellectual Property Rights of a Scientist of Orissa under Threat of Misappropriation

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Clearly two decades ago, a brilliant son of the soil of Orissa, Dr. Asoka K. Misra, invented a technique by which character of a matter takes a new form under controlled application of power, for a new form of use.

This technique, captioned as ‘Misra Technique’ in the high caliber referral journal of United States of America: Metallurgical Transactions A; Vol. 17A, February 1986, was patented in USA as a “method for controlling solidification of metals and other materials” in 1993.

Now this technique, Misra alleges, is being misappropriated by the international giant Philips for use in its project ‘fluidfocus lenses’. On the other hand, the Philips’ claim is being contested by a France startup ‘Varioptic’. “From what we’ve seen of Philips’ fluid lens demonstration, its our technology”, asserts the company spokeswoman Etienne Paillard.

But as both of them claim, they had begun working in the matter after 1993, i.e. after Misra Technique, reported nine years ago in MTA, was patented. Hence Misra seems to be right in alleging that his invention is being misappropriated.

In our earlier report dt.24 Sept.2004, captioned “Misra Technique vrs. Philips”, we had dealt with this dispute. A communication from Philips’ research scientist Dr.Ir.S.Kuiper dt.17 Oct.2004, available to us, he has said, “I looked at and saw indeed that Mr. Misra thinks Philips jeopardizes his rights”.

However, he says, “from the drawing at this web site, I see no analogies with Philips lens”.

We had attracted attention of Dr. Misra to this. He says, “the material used by Philips or Varioptic and the end product they propose is not material. The crux of the issue is the method they use. That method is my method”, he says.

The Misra method, reflected in the abstract of his patent document, is, (a) placing of a molten material in contact with a first electrode formed from a conductive material and a second electrode formed from a semi conductive metal oxide and (b) passing an electric current between the first second electrodes while the molten material is cooling at a current density of 10 to 500 mA/cm.sup.2. This method was invented by Dr. Misra to eliminate the causes of failure as experienced in all earlier experiments suffering set back due to short circuit for use of higher voltage of electricity. The experiment he conducted was on low-melting monotype metal alloy placed in glass tubes with electrodes on both ends of the tube in direct contact with the melt. And the result was the desired modification of structure of the material.

In reporting Philips’ claim, Ian Austen (NYTNS) had carried Kuiper’s version that described how the inside surfaces of the tube containing the lens were covered with water repelling chemicals. The tube is filled with two liquids: one that conducts electricity readily, for example water, and another that does not, such as oil. “When a charge is applied through the electrodes, the surface tension of the liquid changes”.The Varioptic version is of no difference. “A water drop is deposited on a substrate made of metal covered by a thin insulating layer. The voltage applied to the substrate modifies the contact angle of the liquid drop. The liquid lens uses two isodensity liquids, one is an insulator while the other is a conductor. The variation of voltage leads to a change of curvature of the liquid-liquid interface, which in turn leads to change of the focal length of the lens”.

A cursory analysis of all these versions leads one to believe that Misra Technique having heavily preceded the other two, apprehension of the inventor of the first one that his technique is being misappropriated by Philips and Varioptic cannot be held as forceless.

The reaction of both Philips and Varioptic to Misra’s allegation revolves round the fact that they are using liquid material where as Misra experimented on metal and alloys. This argument has no strength. Because, the crux of the issue is not the matter, but the method.

It is definite that Misra Technique is well grasped. It is not bad. In fact, every scientific invention is meant for the world to grasp. But it is bad when a business house grabs it for pocketing profit out of its use by keeping the inventor eclipsed under its avarice.

Hence, we can say, grasp Misra Technique, but don’t grab it

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