World Intellectual Property Organization

Case Studies: Vidal's Drill Bits

Whoever said innovation was only for the big companies or developed countries is amply contradicted by the case of inventor and entrepreneur José Vidal Martina who, from his workshop in Lima, Peru, succeeded in solving a technical problem that for years has plagued a number of production sectors, including glaziers, craftsmen and builders.

José Vidal Martina had already spent years working in the business of semi-precious stones when he began to develop small diamond drill bits for making perforations in the pieces that he made with his stones. Before that he had had to rely on expensive ultrasound machines, and he realized that there was an enormous market to be cornered, as there was no economical method or device for making holes or perforations in materials such as glass, marble, ceramics and granite, and in semi-precious stones generally.

There were machines of course, but they were very expensive and difficult to use, vast contraptions costing thousands of dollars which were not sufficiently practical or accessible to meet the needs of many like himself. Vidal's first drill bit, made with a diamond, was also very expensive, so he started to look for alternatives.

The idea came to him as he was working hard in his workshop, looking for a solution to a very specific technical problem during a long evening of inspiration. Drawing on the knowledge and experience that he had gathered from his examination of all the hole-making systems then in existence that used diamonds, ultrasound machines, systems for cutting by water and abrasion and so on, he succeeded in producing a drill bit capable, in less than a minute, of making holes of various sizes in materials like glass, marble and ceramics. His idea was that a common drill should serve as the basis for the new product, and that the JVM bit with the special guide for perforations of that type that he had invented should be fitted to it.

His device is now sold for just over eight dollars, not only on the Peruvian market but also in a number of other countries, and is making steady progress, generating substantial profits for those handling its distribution as well as those able to buy it and access the technology.

What was the secret of his success? There are a number of explanations, of course, including the inventor-entrepreneur's tenacity, enthusiasm and perseverance. There were other fundamental decisions that helped the process along, however; one of them was the protection of his invention by patent.

When asked why he became interested in intellectual property, Vidal explains that "there's no point in my making something new if I don't protect it; it would be a matter of just days for others to copy my product, and then my business would no longer make sense. Obviously big companies would be able to make my bits at lower cost, distribute them better and leave me with nothing."

With this perception of the real world, José Vidal decided that his only chance of bringing his product to market and enjoying the benefits of the time and effort invested in the creation of the new product was to protect his invention with a patent.

"If I hadn't known about intellectual property," Mr. Vidal says, "I surely wouldn't even have felt inclined to sell my product; I'd have resigned myself to keeping it under lock and key in the workshop, and earning money through services rendered to people who needed holes made, which is what I actually did for the glaziers.

"I am sure there are many people, like me, who at the outset don't know the intellectual property system and who guard their inventions like the proverbial dog in the manger. Just think of the number of inventions that could benefit society but are locked up in a workshop so that others can't use them!"

Vidal's words say it all, yet he himself admits that the process was by no means easy: "I had to inform myself thoroughly on how the system worked, and it wasn't easy to find people with the knowledge of how to set about having a product protected internationally." Vidal found that the cost of protection could be very high if one decided to have the invention protected in a large number of countries. For him it was a strategic decision, and he chose to have the invention protected in those countries in which there were the best prospects of manufacturing and selling the product; so the decision was to use the PCT system so that his patent application could be filed in several countries, whereupon he could show the invention at international trade fairs with a view to finding distributors to market it without fear of losing it to third parties.

Vidal has since licensed another company to manufacture the product in some countries, but continues to search for specialized distributors in the field of construction in order to ensure that his product is commercialized worldwide. In his little business, with six staff, he continues to look for ways of improving his products, and he is already working on some new patents. Today in fact he is preparing for the presentation of his product at the two most important constructors' fairs on the American continent, where he is certain there will be great interest in his product. While the marketing and advertising will be the most difficult stage, Vidal has no doubt that in a very short time all will agree that his product is more practical and less expensive than the alternatives now available.

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