The first electronic cigarette patent was approved by a man name called Herbert A. Gilbert in 1963. Unfortunately, his idea had never been fulfilled till 2003 by a Chinese medical researcher - Hon Lik, who had a pack-a-day habit, develops an electronic alternative to traditional cigarettes. This is the beginning of electronic cigarette revolution, a industry is estimated over $3.5 billion worth in US. Both big tobacco firms and small entrepreneurs are falling over themselves to find new ways to vape — a verb suddenly so mainstream that the Oxford English Dictionary named it 2014’s Word of the Year.
In 2005, only eight e-cigarette inventions were described in published patents. By 2012 the figure had jumped to 220, and by last year there were more than 500 inventions, according to an analysis by the IP & Science business of Thomson Reuters. This year, the total is 650. (A single invention might be covered by several patents.)
Of more than 2,000 e-cigarette inventions tracked by Thomson Reuters, 64 percent originated in China, where more than half of men smoke. In second place is the United States at 14 percent, followed by South Korea at 9 percent.
Some patented suggestions target smokers looking to regulate their nicotine intake and spending. On the market are thousands of e-liquid flavors as varied as marshmallow, and even a smartphone app to show how much you are using, but new patents go a step further.
Tobacco giant Philip Morris International describes an e-cigarette that would allow users to “pay as you go” by buying a certain number of doses through computer application connected to their e-cigarette. Customers also could program the device to shut off after a certain number of puffs per use to help limit intake.
Smaller players aim to deliver doses of caffeine and other additives rather than nicotine. A unit of mCig Inc. sells VitaCigs containing vitamins and supplements such as valerian and collagen, while a company called Energy Shisha sells a caffeinated vaping stick. Patents filed by others, including Fuma International, mention tetrahydrocannabinol, the active chemical in marijuana.
In general, e-cigarette patents relate to systems for heating and vaporizing liquids, and for charging the electronic systems, whether in a “cigalike” device or a larger “tank” system, which doesn’t resemble a cigarette but gives a better vaping experience.
China’s domination of the market reflects not only its number of smokers but also a wider drive by the Chinese government to forge a knowledge economy. By maximizing patents, it hopes to replace the ubiquitous “Made in China” label by “Designed in China.”
Since 2011, China has been the world’s top patent filer for all inventions, according to the World Intellectual Property Office. Its scientists and companies now lay claim to intellectual-property rights in fields such as telecoms and medicine.
“Patenting globally is rising significantly year on year, driven by Chinese patenting generally,” said Bob Stembridge, senior patent analyst at Thomson Reuters IP & Science. “But I would say the e-cigarette field is growing faster than the general trend, and the bias toward China is greater than in global patenting.”