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I am curious to know that how it can be that so many companies can build wind turbines.

Did these companies buy the patent from the inventor of wind turbine? Or is this technology not patentable? Or did no one bother to patent this technology?

Suppose, hypothetically, that I am the inventor of the wind turbine. How can I protect my idea to prevent it from being duplicated?

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Of course windmills/turbines in general are not new and one would not need a license or permission to make and sell a "generic" wind turbine. But there are new types of wind mills invented and patented all the time. Examples are US7821148B2 Wind turbine and US8441138B2 Wind turbine.

Patents are complicated and an inventor of a new type of windmill might need to license other people's patents that are broader in order to be able to make their new invention.

Most windmill inventions are to improvements in components. It is a very rich field. As a small example, I helped a client get a patent on a device that is attached inside a windmill tower that prevents maintenance workers hitting their heads on part of the structure as they climb up.

The second part of your question was how you can protect an invention you might make. Technology can be protected by patents both design and utility and some things might be able to be kept trade secrets (but not both for the same thing).

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    In the second para by licensing do you mean that the person must go through the patents of his competitors to find whether his invention comes under their patent or not @George White
    – tank12
    Jan 19 at 6:51
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    Anybody making, selling, offering for sale or using a new product could be infringing some patent. Yes, before producing a wind turbine it would be prudent to do a "freedom-to-operate" search. Jan 20 at 0:05
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    Worth mentioning that the whole idea of a patent is that you get exclusive use of a novel invention for a limited term of time (currently 20 years from the application for a utility patent in the U.S. that covers invention ideas rather than ideas) in a bargain that places the patented idea into the public domain when the patent expires. All U.S. utility patents applied for pre-January 21, 2000 are in the public domain (excluding a handful of truly obscure exceptions that would be fact intense and immaterial here).
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 21 at 20:05
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    @GeorgeWhite You could protect the utility patent aspect of an invention with trade secrets in some cases (e.g. a manufacturing process or metallic alloy that needs to be used), but it would be pretty much impossible to protect a wind turbine design that way (obviously).
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 21 at 20:16
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    Actually getting days added to the end of a term for Patent Term Extension is not an obscure exception at all. If a patent application is held up by certain patent office delays you get that time added to the end of your twenty years. Unless you do specific things that also hold it up. Actually the rules and calculations are obscure. Also, Anything filed before June 8 1995 has a term of 17 years from grant. Some of those old applications have not not been granted but might be someday. They will be valid 17 years from issue. Jan 21 at 20:21
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There can be no patent on the idea of wind wheels, as they are medieval "prior art". Likewise, many generator patents are no longer applicable, the first were invented back in 1831 by Faraday. Recombining a windwheel with a dynamo is almost as old - so the idea and basic setup of even the worst efficient wind turbines is not patentable: You can not patent anything that is prior art.

Many types of Wind turbines are prior art and had their patents - if they existed - expired for at times decades. As a result, those plans are open to anyone to use.

What is patentable are parts or designs that make them more efficient or cheaper to make, more sturdy or such, and there are tons of parts in that category.

So in the end we got many companies that make either patent-free windmills or have their own patents or licensed the patents of others. But there can't be a monopoly on windmills anymore since there are so many prior-art designs.

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  • Yes old wind turbines designs are old but new wind turbines are invented and patented all the time. For example US7303369B2 Magnetic vertical axis wind turbine patents.google.com/patent/US7303369B2 is valid until 2026. Jan 20 at 0:12
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    @GeorgeWhite true, but that doesn't stop anyone from making the old design ones - which explains why there are so many doing it.
    – Trish
    Jan 20 at 1:19
  • I agree. Also the components (blades, turbines) are for sale which exhausts the patent rights of the manufactures of the components. Jan 20 at 4:13

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