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As fisherman in coastal Texas are most likely already aware, a federal mandate requires fishing vessels to be equipped with at-sea monitors and to host federal enforcement contractors, and the vessels' owners are required to pay the costs associated with it. Many in the industry say that those costs are weighing heavily on them and could put them out of business. However, patent law could change all that.

An East Coast university was recently awarded a patent for a 3D camera system that fisherman could put on their vessels that would satisfy the mandate at a lower cost. The system would cost about $500 to install on a vessel. It is designed to increase the amount of information that could be collected, ensure accuracy and reduce costs.

The system -- created at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth -- uses technology similar to that used to gather information about tornadoes, called stereo photogrammetry. Not only does it count fish, but also it can also take images of the fish and distinguishes between whether they are in a net or on deck. It can also determine what species the fish are, along with their size. The information can be stored permanently. All of the information can then be used to help sustain stocks of fish, which is critical to the industry.

These types of innovations are one of the reasons why patent law exists. Researchers at the university saw a need and found a way to fill it. Texas inventors exhibit the same type of ingenuity when they come up with new ideas. However, the creativity often comes easier than the patent application process. Therefore, it would be beneficial to enlist the assistance of an attorney to help ensure that it goes smoothly.

Source: Wicked Local North of Boston, "UMass awarded patent with implications for fish monitoring", Colin A. Young, July 20, 2016

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