back to article Brit inventor wants prison for patent crims

The inventor of the wind-up radio is calling on the UK government to toughen its stance on patent law, by making intellectual property theft a criminal offence. Trevor Baylis has written to business secretary Lord Mandelson urging him to consider a change in legislation. He said in an interview with the Beeb today that …


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  1. SuperTim


    So with all the patent trolls out there patenting technology they have no intention of developing (which is what patenting was created to encourage), this idiot who had an invention that nobody wanted thinks it is fair to jail anyone who independently creates technology that may infringe a patent troll's maliciously created patent?

    He is an idiot. Sure if you can demonstrably prove malicious theft of the patent, then that may be fair, but to assume that anyone creating a wind up radio did so after stealing his patent is just plain false. The bad news is that the "dark lord of the sith" is now involved and therefore we are all screwed!

  2. Lloyd

    He has a point

    And puts forward a convincing case, but I can't go with it because Vince Cable's backing him.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Definitely barking

    I'll agree with the "barking mad" diagnosis.

    Expensive lawyers can argue for ever about whether a given patent is valid or whether a particular activity infringes it. In particular, pretty much anything anyone does with a computer could be argued to infringe some patent.

    "The slow nature of the process to get a patent approved could damage innovation"? The granting of any kind of patent does damage innovation!

  4. Donal Gavin
    Jobs Halo


    P*** off trevor.

    We are all aware of the good reasons to lower the ole patent laws. People are too greedy for their own good.

  5. lukewarmdog


    If I patent complaining, the act of making a complaint using various methods to a third party, then I would control who could complain about what.

    World domination would be mine and if you didn't like it.. well there would be nothing you could do about it.

  6. Alec Harkness

    Something rotten

    Certainly something does seem fundamentally wrong with the patents system when a genuine inventor has to raise tens of thousands of pounds to patent a radically new type of flying machine, whereas enterprises seem to fart out patents for the bleedin' obvious on a daily basis.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I thought Vince Cable had more sense

    ...than to back this lunacy. Sure, intellectual property is worth protecting, but not like this.

    AIUI criminal law is mainly there to punish willfully malicious or seriously negligent behaviour, not the perhaps accidental or questionable infringement of a patent. (I guess Balyis was thinking only of willful infringement, hence his emotive comparison with "theft". But we all know how the scope of laws can creep...)

  8. Efros
    Paris Hilton


    The submitters of bogus patents and those nulled by prior art or not being innovative should be charged double should their patent be declined. Might stop the crap that is being given patents nowadays, or just stop software patents in the US, I'm sure that would help.

    Paris cos she knows all about patent, leather that is.

  9. alain williams Silver badge

    It is the lawyers at fault ...

    as usual. Reduce the costs of litigation and suing someone who has really infringed a patent would be affordable.

    Large companies employ expensive lawyers to scare off smaller rivals. The lawyers deliberately wind up costs and the small rival (who may well be in the right) will back off rather than face the risk of losing and having to pay ruinous legal fees.

    The result is that he who has the deeper pocket wins - not he who is right.

    Not much different from school playground bullying is it ?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clockwork boogers, electric underpants

    Two inventors have an idea, they go out and make their idea, unfortunately their patents overlap and their ideas overlap*. One of them goes to jail. Innovation encouraged!

    One inventor has an idea, one patent troll already made a vague broad patent in that same area. Inventor goes to jail! Innovation encouraged!

    I think Bayliss completely misses the point of Mandy, it's not that Mandy is suddenly focussed on the importance of p2p (p2p is from 8 years ago, and is on the decline, yet suddenly it's an urgent thing that needs to be fixed by bypassing Parliament?), it's that he had a 'meeting' with some rich well connected movie/music people on their yacht, and whenever Mandy 'meets' rich well connected people on yachts, suddenly their priorities become his priorities.

    Bayliss needs to stop writing to Mandy, and instead buy a yacht, park it in Corfu and have a 'meeting' with Mandy where there are no prying eyes and no minutes are taken.

    But he does have a point, why is copyright a criminal offence and not a civil one? Surely if there's money to be made from copyright then tax payer money shouldn't be needed to enforce it. Are we spending more enforcing third party copyright than it's actually worth? If so, then it's a net expense we can ill afford!

    * For example a wind up electric crystal watch from 1976 and a wind up electric crystal radio from 1987

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The real winners...

    Although this change would benefit lone inventors, the real winners would be huge multinationals - allowing them exploit their vast portfolios of vague patents with even greater force.

    Everyone else would lose out with increased prices (due to the cost of litigation and checking for potential infringement) and poorer products (due to stifled innovation with people not willing to risk a criminal record).

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Intellectual Property

    Presently my favourite oxymoron.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    @idiot - btsupertim

    Completely uterly agree. Patents are minefield at the moment. There are so many riduculous patents that patent the bleeding obvious that its completely impractical.

    The guy is a moron.

  14. Tom 7

    Correction: Developer of the clockwork radio.

    He didn't invent it. He just patented it first.

    Patents were never intended to promote development. Its was first called "Statute of Monopolies"

    Queen Annes parasites (legal advisers) managed to get the law changed so a copy of the invention was available - not so others could benefit from it but so that the crown could still control it. Its only in the last few years (since the non-patented internet) that others have actually easily been able to see patents without going bankrupt in the process.

  15. Winkypop Silver badge

    One word


  16. Pete 2 Silver badge

    mixed feelings

    While I can see that intellectual property is just like any other kind of property - with the slight qualification that it doesn't actually exist in any physical form, I can't help feeling that this would turn into another SFO - with the very high failure rate and even higher litigation costs that the Serious Fraud Office is well known for.

    The problem with having a publicly financed body "protecting" the rights of british patent holders is that most of the complainants would turn out to be large companies (not the Trevor Bayliss style "lone inventors", simply 'coz there aren't that many of them) who hold most of the patents that are worth infringing. Even worse, most of the infringers would turn out to be other companies - and I would guess that a lot of those would be overseas. So what we'd end up with would be our money being spent on legal cases being brought against foreign companies, for the benefit of other companies. At a guess, I'd expect that most of these cases would never get as far as a court - either being dropped through "lack of evidence" (i.e. too hard, too technical, too complicated) or with the participants reaching an out-of-court settlement once the possibility of action becomes a reality.

    Just how this would benefit the people who paid for this (i.e. thee and me) is unclear. Keeping jobs in britain? maybe - although most manufacturing is too expensive to do onshore, so those jobs wouldn't be ours. Increased tax income? hard to see how that would happen, most companies try very hard to minimise their contributions. Because it's the right thing to do? Hahahahahaha, good one.

    In the end the only people I can think of who would benefit would be the patent lawyers employed by this new QANGO - and their interest would be to prolong the investigations and hearings - rather than to bring about a result. As that's how they make their money

  17. Number6

    Encouraging Innovation

    The original purpose of patents was to encourage inventors so that truly novel ideas would have some protection in the marketplace and help the small inventor against the large company. However, it's all degraded into farce, where the bleeding obvious gets patented and the large companies use the threat of expensive patent litigation to screw the small inventor, stifling innovation.

    The number of times someone's posed a problem and I've immediately come up with an answer, only to find that the solution has been patented leads me to believe that one of the basic tests for a patent has been ignored or inappropriately applied. If you can get someone skilled in the art, pose the problem and get the patent method as a solution then it must be obvious.

    The whole system is broken and should be largely binned.

  18. whiteafrican

    Dear Reg, Please take the time to actually read the law...

    ...your first sentence reads "The inventor of the wind-up radio is calling on the UK government to toughen its stance on patent law, by making intellectual property theft a criminal offence." and you go on to refer to "patent theft".

    But if you read the Theft Act 1968, the CDPA 1988 and the Patents Act 1994, you will find that it is impossible to commit the offence of "theft" in relation to intellectual property, because the mens rea for theft includes an intention to permanently deprive the owner of the item in question. Therefore it is impossible to commit "patent theft" (or any theft of intellectual property).

    By infringing a patent, a person does not permanently deprive the owner of that patent of anything he already has. For this reason, we have a separate law of intellectual property, because the normal laws of property and theft do not apply to ideas.

    You typically see this type of nonsense bandied about by people like FACT (the Federation Against Copyright Theft). These idiots are a federation against something that does not (and cannot) exist - and they know it. But they want you to think that it does exist, so instead of using the word "theft" in their ads, they use the word "stealing" (which is not defined in the same way).

    Next time, please do some research before writing about the law. (Yes, IAAL).

  19. A J Stiles


    The patent system does not exist for the purpose of allowing inventors to make money: it exists for the purpose of encouraging inventors to contribute their inventions to the Public Domain.

    What is long overdue is to re-examine thoroughly whether granting temporary monopolies to inventors in exchange for a promise that their inventions will be released to the Public Domain in due course is still the best way to achieve the objective of enhancing the Public Domain -- and, if it turns out not to be so, to replace it.

  20. Mark 65

    He's right

    but only, of course, if the patent process is tightened up with trolls told to piss off and proper due diligence performed over claims. Otherwise he's off his rocker.

  21. The First Dave


    I too am a little confused by this - I feel sure that we would need a wholesale revision of the Patent system before this could come in, but if this is the trigger that is needed, that seems reasonable.

    The big problem that I see is that for any public prosecution to go forward, it is supposed to be deemed to be "in the public interest"

    How would you apply that test to IP? Clearly it is always going to be in the public interest to get cheap goods, which means open competition, which goes against patent enforcement.

  22. Dr. Mouse


    I believe that patents are a good thing, IF they are used as they were intended.

    The idea of a patent is to promote publication of the details of an invention, while allowing the "owner" of the patent to be protected from people stealing their idea. This way, human knowledge is advanced, but the inventor is able to dictate terms of use of his invention (whether this be for the popular monetary gain, or for ideological purposes, or whatever they wish). In the case where a single person invents something revolutionary, starts producing a product based on this, and then finds a large organisation has wilfully "stolen" his idea, the small-fry has very little chance of bringing a civil suit successfully. This sort of tactic is the fault of our "justice" system, and capitalism in general. Even IF the guy can afford to bring a suit, his business could easily be bankrupt before the issue is resolved, and this stifles the innovation which patents are intended to encourage.

    However, I do believe that patents should be invalidated if the inventor (or owner of the patent) has no intention of putting it to use, as this goes against the fundamental reasons for patents existing in the first place. If this condition was in the patent (if challenged you must prove you are not just sitting on the patent) then trolls would be out of business, and technology would advance, just as patents were designed for.

    Making patent infringement a criminal offence may help protect the small-fry mentioned above, but it would be more likely to stifle innovation further, and so is not an option. What we really need is a way for the small business or individual to be able to take on a big corp who has infringed his patent without incurring crippling legal fees, and enduring lengthy proceedings. Maybe a sepparate procedure which allows a very quick way to force a review of the alleged infringement, and force an injunction against the big corporation. After this is done, a civil suit could begin, possibly with some sort of legal aid or other government-supplied help (income-assessed, or course) to ensure the protection of the invention. IANAL, I am not sure what help is out there already, and I havent had time to think this through fully, but something needs to change to bring patent law back in line with it's original purpose.

  23. adnim

    poor, poor man

    he obviously thinks that he isn't rich enough. My heart bleeds.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Tom 7 and others

    No matter how patents are being now used by the more nefarious amongst us, the system does encourage invention. Without patent protection if I invented something useful then immediately someone else would steal the idea and make it cheaper (with their existing manufacturing systems) and without the initial development costs.

    With patents, not only would my invention be protected but also as it would have to be published it would open up for someone to improve it - whereupon we would cross license our patents and both make even more money, fame, drugs, cars and loose womens.

    I do agree that the system is currently being abused, I would have to say that I am not sure I agree with criminal penalties for patent theft. The problem with Trevor Bayliss' comparison with copyright is that he is completely talking bollocks. The comparison should not be with, say piating dvds ad selling them down the car boot as much as say writing a new, unauthorised Harry Potter book without the permission of J K Rowling. She would have to sue you for damages and desistment and I pretty much doubt you'd go to prison.

    If the law was to change to criminalise patent copying then it should also be changed to criminalise bogus patent filings, such as patents covered by prior art or similar, which if anything should already be covered by fraud but apparently isn't.

  25. Mike Gravgaard

    Patents need reform...

    I kind of agree with Trevor - he's possibly looking at this with "people in China are stealing my ideas" and I agree this should be stopped but we need a better patent system.

    I believe we should have a system where they are banded and that only the original inventor gets the top band, someone buying a company with a second band and so on.. and the lower the band the less the patent is worth - this would stop patent trolls but cause other problems.

    Personnally I think we need a better prior art patent law which has better enforcement and patent offices should enforce patents better and not allow stupid patents - the whole lot needs looking at but until someone without a motivies does, the system is flawed and big business will always lobby the way they want it.

    Just my 2 pence worth


  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    What patent, officer?

    Well I guess it does go along with current trends in legislation - by making sure that almost everything we do is against the law whether we know it or not.

  27. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    You can always trust a lawyer... be (ahem) economical with the truth.

    "Patent infringement is not remotely like flogging knock-off CDs"

    That's bollocks. In 99% of cases it's pretty much identical. Most patent infringing products are mass produced in the far east and sold by people who know full well the goods are dodgy.

    But of course a patent lawyer would say that wouldn't he. If patent infringement does become a criminal case people like him will lose income.

    The problem for Trev is that a change like this will only protect him in the UK. It's not going to protect him against somebody selling knock off Taiwanese gear in Mexico City. Worse still companies selling this sort of gear in the UK are usually so convoluted that it's unlikely the real perps would be caught.

  28. ThomH

    Yeah! Let's crack down!

    Jail sentences for patent offenders! And add two years to the minimum sentence for every crime! Automatic hanging for everyone with an ASBO! Anyone coming into contact with children should be required to install CCTV inside their house! Otherwise, they have something to hide!

    Gosh, people arguing that Government cannot possibly regulate all society will next be suggesting that layering ever more severe laws on top of each other whenever an area of law appears subjectively unjust to at least one party isn't the way forward. Fools.

  29. Tom 7


    Unfortunately the patent system is and will be subservient to the legal system. As such the ones with the money will win. This does nothing to promote innovation.

    From what I can see innovation is not driven by greed as the lawyers would like us to think - its driven by people who wish solutions to problems. A patent system just makes it nigh on impossible for anyone to innovate at all - unless they have bucket loads of wonga.

    Most useful patented ideas come from companies that have patented an invention by one of their staff. The inventor doesnt get to own the patent - the idea that patents motivate is complete rubbish.

  30. Stef 1

    Just to clear a few myths

    Software as such is non-patentable in the UK, hasn't been for quite a while. Even the old 'EPO tricks' (technical effect) don't work any more. Google up the Macrossan/Aerotel test applied by UK IPO Patent Examiners.

    Software has recently become non-patentable in the US (and business methods definitely so). Google up the new Examination Guidelines (August 09) by new USPTO boss David Kappos (note that they are not legally binding, but will be rigidly followed by US Examiners -who value their career progression- as a matter of course).

    Patents, at their core, are a time-limited monopoly granted to an inventor (or successor in title) in exchange for telling the world and its dog what the invention is and, more importantly, how it works. The time limit expires, then the world and its dog can work and sell the invention. Always has been, and still is, the case.

    Because no Inventor, Patent Attorney or Patent Examiner is omniscient, patents have been, are and always will be granted despite the existence of relevant prior art, across which noone of these 3 entities has run into. That is why most jurisdictions (the UK included) offer unconnected third parties a right to submit comments and prior arts against grant of a patent (usually free of charge), and some form or other of pre- or post-grant opposition proceedings (once a Patent Office has decided to grant).

    In the course of developing a new piece of technology (regardless of the field), running into a granted patent is intended to prompt the engineer to think around it and develop a new solution, which may itself be patentable (or not). Whether the engineer patents or not is a business/commercial opportunity, but he can't blame others for taking up the opportunity when he chooses not to. Sometimes (true story), the choice boild down to something as simple as getting a raft of new Beemers in the car park or preparing and filing a series of patent applications - you makes your choices, you lives with them.

    Ah, yes, one more: there are no patent trolls in the UK or, for that matter, in the EU. For patent owners, it's just too dangerous. The cost/benefit is totally out of whack compared to the US, because US market = 1 patent for a single market of 300m people, whereas 1 EU patent = 30 patents for 30 markets of wildly varying sizes, with potential for wildly fluctuating results (Google up the Epilady cases).

    Beer icon, 'cos we love free beer claims.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Tom 7 and...

    Only since the internet that people have been "able to see patents without going bankrupt" ?

    Patents have always been published (long before/if they are granted). The internet makes searching easier, but that is all.

    And, although I have mixed feelings about patents, they can provide valuable protection for the "little guy". e.g. the guy who invented the intermittent windscreen wiper and demonstrated it to Ford who then proceeded to manufacture it without even a thank you (despite the fact he had had patented it). And I'm sure there are other examples. Yes, the system gets abused but it has value, in principle at least.

  32. jeffrey 1

    I think

    Lets keep it civil

    But cap costs that can be awarded to something in the realm of what a single person could affoard. That way the big compaies can pay for £1million a day lawyers, but they would still only get £5k in costs if they win. It would allow the litlle man to protect himself.

  33. Stef 1

    And a few more...

    @Dr Mouse

    "However, I do believe that patents should be invalidated if the inventor (or owner of the patent) has no intention of putting it to use, as this goes against the fundamental reasons for patents existing in the first place. If this condition was in the patent (if challenged you must prove you are not just sitting on the patent) then trolls would be out of business, and technology would advance, just as patents were designed for."

    Licenses of rights can be obtained from the UK IPO Comptroller, when the market demand (for the patented technology) is not being met by the patentee. Has been in the UK Patents Act since 1949 (at least, if not earlier), and Patent Law of most jurisdictions 'that matter' have similar provisions, if not worse (your Turkish patent -national or as a result of a granted European patent- will be revoked if you do not supply evidence of use of the invention in Turkey within 3 years of the date of publication of the Turkish grant).

    "What we really need is a way for the small business or individual to be able to take on a big corp who has infringed his patent without incurring crippling legal fees, and enduring lengthy proceedings."

    The introduction of UK Patents Court has already substantially reduced litigation costs, but there is currently a proposal to cap the costs of UK patent infringement proceedings at £50k, with the blessing of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (because we just happen to know which side of our bread's butterred, would you believe).

    @Grease Monkey

    "That's bollocks. In 99% of cases it's pretty much identical. Most patent infringing products are mass produced in the far east and sold by people who know full well the goods are dodgy."

    Most patent infringing products are actually #patented products# manufactured on behalf of the patentee, but consist of 'excess production runs' sold by the manufacturer to parallel importers (in breach of contract with the patentee). For that type of product/situation, Registered Design (UK or EU) is much easier and cheaper to obtain and enforce (and for IP-savvy businesses, is usually sought at the same time as patents).

    "But of course a patent lawyer would say that wouldn't he. If patent infringement does become a criminal case people like him will lose income."

    Not likely, it just means we'll have less hassle chasing bad debtors, since we'll be invoicing the tax payers instead :-D

    "The problem for Trev is that a change like this will only protect him in the UK. It's not going to protect him against somebody selling knock off Taiwanese gear in Mexico City."

    So get a Mexican patent and/or a Taiwanese patent.

    Patents are jurisdictional animals, always have been, why should your UK patent (which only exists because UK Statutes say it can and does) have any effect in Mexico or Taiwan (which are legally independent from the UK juridicition)? It's enough that it can be used to stop UK imports of the Taiwanese knock off and leave you with the full UK market.

    Second pint, because I'm having a liquid lunch.

  34. Ian Michael Gumby
    Thumb Down

    @White African....

    Mens rea?

    Hmmm. First you have to consider that current patent law is civil and not criminal.

    So in theory, if you have a case where the defendant knowingly and flagrantly violated the patent, would the damages not be enough to compensate the patent holder?

    I would wonder if you could say that a theft did occur. IP is not physical. So unlike stealing a car, if you infringe upon a patent, what did you actually steal from the patent holder?

    Of course living in the states, I think that the patent holder will someday get his wish. If there ever was a case where someone flagrantly violates a patent, leaves evidence that makes it easy to show mens rea, after the civil suit, there may be a criminal case.

    I don't care one way or the other because in the bigger scheme of things, it won't change a thing.

  35. Steven Jones

    Sauce for the Goose

    If those who are found to be in breach of a patent are to be liable to be jailed as is suggested, then might I suggest that this would need to be balanced by similar risks to those making patents which are later found to be invalid.

    It should not be forgotten that patent law is essentially a legalised monopoly. The presence of such a system is a special case of the suspension of competition law. It is also not to be mixed up with copyright law which provides a different sort of IPR protection.

    If what Trevor Baylis is really talking about is industrial espionage, then that's a completely different things. I might just about agree that there should be a criminal sanction if a company deliberately attempts to defraud a patent owner, but turning the patent violation

    into a strict liability criminal offense, as this article implies, is a recipe for bringing technological development to a grinding halt. It's already a major issue for companies falling foul of patent trolls, but if that then became a matter of criminal law then imagine the repurcusions.

    (For those that don't know, "strict liability offenses" do not require the prosecution to prove intent - many minor offenses, like speeding fall in that category).

  36. Anonymous Coward


    Lock up the scumbag, greasy legal dirt that oozes out of the woodwork at the first whiff of a patent claim case, then when they're all safely locked away, do away with patents completely!

    Simpsons quote "Can you imagine a world without lawyers? *Shudder* ( Cue image of people of all creeds and religions, dancing in sunny fields under rainbows. )"

  37. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Inventor != Terribly Bright

    The old man is confused. I understand his frustration with big corporations circumventing his patents and relying on the prospect of an expensive litigation to deter him from seeking a legal redress. I even agree that the patent system most likely needs some revision. But his proposal is ludicrous and will achieve effect exactly the opposite to what he wants.

    It will be the big corporates who will use the criminal statutes to fight against the likes of him, not the other way around. But that presuming that it would even be possible to pass, let alone enforce, such laws, which thankfully it is not.

    The most hilarious bit - So he wants to criminalize patent infringement to protect against other *countries* stealing his ideas?

    Did he calculate how much space will Britain need to detain the entire population of, say, China if that country is found to be infringing his patent? And how is he proposing to arrest them in the first place?

  38. dreadful scathe


    I agree with the 'barking mad' comments.

    "If I was to nick your car, which is worth £10,000, say, I could go to jail," Baylis told the BBC.

    "But if I were to nick your patent, which is worth a million pounds, you'd have to sue me."

    You can't "nick" a patent, you can only be caught doing something covered by it - so for the car analogy to be accurate you'd have to sell people tickets to ride about in your car, which just happens to look a bit like Trevors. :)

  39. Anonymous Coward

    He has no point, and puts forward a bogus and misleading analogy.

    Dear Mr. Bayliss,

    >""If I was to nick your car, which is worth £10,000, say, I could go to jail," Baylis told the BBC.

    >"But if I were to nick your patent, which is worth a million pounds, you'd have to sue me."

    Yes, you fucktard patent troll, and that's entirely right and proper and as it should be, because stealing a patent IS NOT LIKE stealing a car. What the fuck kind of car can somebody steal off you AND YOU'VE STILL GOT IT AFTERWARDS?

    It is copying, not stealing, and you're a patent troll and massive self-publicist who slapped a patent on an existing idea and claimed that you had invented it. But since it's not actually your idea, it's not stealing. You are a rent-seeking patent troll who wants to twist the law to serve your own personal financial gain rather than the demands of justice and the needs of society, and you should GFAD.

    Now begone with you, you pathetic bitter greedy impotent little man.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Re: @Tom 7 and...

    jsp wrote:

    "Patents have always been published (long before/if they are granted). The internet makes searching easier, but that is all."

    This should be a critical argument for patent apologists, but the fact that such apologists want patents on software (which is sadly still a grey area in places like the UK, contrary to what Stef 1 claims), and the fact that you'd have to search for thousands of patent claims in order to write a non-trivial program (and still miss some because things which are natural applications of the languages and tools being used would have some bogus patent on them) just goes to show that patents are a costly distraction and an unnecessary burden on various domains, as well as being plain unethical in many of them, too.

    "And, although I have mixed feelings about patents, they can provide valuable protection for the "little guy". e.g. the guy who invented the intermittent windscreen wiper and demonstrated it to Ford who then proceeded to manufacture it without even a thank you (despite the fact he had had patented it). And I'm sure there are other examples. Yes, the system gets abused but it has value, in principle at least."

    I suppose this is what Bayliss is banging on about. Despite the usual pro-patent advocacy about the little player getting a seat at the big table with their "important" patent, the big players can afford to sit on the little player until he is no longer a threat. What Bayliss misses is how the big players could send him to jail under his proposal, whereas executives would probably get off the hook (as they always do).

    Patents are instruments of monopoly, by definition, and are used by large businesses to form cartels and to stifle competition. Strengthening and extending patentability merely makes the situation worse.

  41. Psymon

    It might have been a good idea...

    if the patent system in the states wasn't totally, utterly and completely broken.

    The american patent system allows patents so vague we've already seen half a dozen examples within these very pages of patents being approved that they cover the fundemental underpinnings of the internet as we know it. Which brings me on to the next point.

    The American patent system has no concept of prior art. At best they will pay lip service to this condition, at worst they will pass patents blatantly based on unoriginal ideas.

    Finally, the american patent system allows for the patenting of methadology. The backhanders paid to allow this insanity must have been monumental. So, not only can I patent something that has been done before, it can be a WAY of doing something that has been done before, and best of all it only has to be a vague conceptual notion of something that has been done before.

    The British patent system although better, isn't by much, and if the lobby groups get their way then will be just as corrupt

  42. This post has been deleted by its author

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How much does IP rights cost?

    If Bayliss can't make a profit from his invention by taking the profits of people who infringe his patent, then how can the UK profit from it?

    Monopolies are bad, a patent monopoly is only granted in a very narrow case for a greater good. Inventions that otherwise wouldn't be created, and profits that otherwise wouldn't be realized.

    But if there's not enough money in the monopoly for him to be worth protecting it himself, then why would we spend tax payer money enforcing it for less gain than can be made from civil enforcement?

    I know that he doesn't pay for those costs, but UK as a whole does. Our exporting businesses pay a burden fro his wind up radio, and if the profits from that don't exceed that burden, then what is the benefit in providing him with a patent in the first place?

  44. TimNevins

    Patent Protection:The Great Myth

    One of the greatest stunts ever pulled is this concept of incentiving people with financial reward in order to ensure patents are made and locked down. As a race mankind would probably be a century forward in progress if patents were abolished so that every person could take advantage of any new discovery. Like the internet most people would be willing to allow their ideas to be used if they could also use other peoples ideas as well. This would allow a collective leapfrogging of ideas that would and could lead to new innovation being available to pretty much anyone. There would be no incentive not to disclose your idea.

    Do you think the person who invented the wheel did so out of hope of financial gain and patent protection?

    Or did he/she do so to make their life easier?

    Then someone else took the wheel and added another etc until carts began to evolve,then into chariots, then into carraiges. Everybody wins.

    Look at all the works of art from ancient Egypt. They were not inspired to do so for financial gain but for recognition and fame and general advancement, which can be just as rewarding for some people as finance. Dr. Kawashima (Brain Train) declined royalties for games based on his studies to the tune to 125 million dollars.

    The original intent of patents(acceptably fair) has been completely subverted and skewed in favour of big business. The financial entry to establishing patents has long held back many inventors to getting up and running.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Once upon a time I was at University with a bloke who mentioned his great idea for a new type of cable tie.

    I've not seen him since but apparently he got a patent on this idea, and sold, or released ownership of that patent to his then employer.

    Later he went off to set up his own company making products that were essentially the same. Although technically different, the "core idea" of the product was the same. Nevertheless, he got a patent for this "new" idea, got funding from the popular Dragon's Den BBC program on the basis of the patent.

    Now there seems to be one holy mess of litigation.

    Personally I think there is something wrong with being able to steal someone else's capacity to behave in what would otherwise be a completely legal way. Unlike copyright which is a law that applies to everybody from above, a patent is the power that everyone has to create a law that applies to everyone else. It's not right.

    I say this with one exception. That exception is the small enterprise with a great idea, which is then stolen by a huge corporation which goes on to drive the inventor into the ground.

    On the basis of the guy I knew at University, this is not what patents are doing. There it is just causing small businesses to fight amongst themselves, rather than compete. Making patents more vicious will not be a good thing. The fighting will just be more vicious. I trust that Trevor Bayliss has good intent. I like him, but this is not his best idea IMO, I certainly doubt it's worth in patent terms.

    For the guy I knew at Uni, to me it all depends if he sold, or gave the patent to his employer. I suspect the former. In either case the patent system has failed, because it was unable to recognise the prior art at the time of the second application.

    The more unified the global patent system becomes, the worse this problem will be.

  46. ElReg!comments!Pierre
    Thumb Down

    A patent is worth *nothing*

    My car is not worth 10 grands either. But a patent is worth exactly zero pounds per se. Now the product that uses one or several patents is worth something, and according to the (dimwitted as it is) patent system some of this money should go to the patent holder (who is not necessarily -and actually in most cases, isn't- the inventor).

    Also, the people claiming that patents promote innovation or protect the colloquial "little guy" should have a look at the real world. In the real world, patents only protect you if you're willing to spend more cash than your opponent. Tough luck for the "little guy". And the very fact that you don't necessarily have to have the first clue about a possible implementation to get a patent has led to the current state of affair where the patent system is actually one of the major burdens slowing innovation down. If you think of something original and useful, and implement your idea, you'll most likely get screwed because chances are that some big corp. with a lot of cash already owns a generally-worded "blanket" patent that their lawyers will present as covering your invention as soon as you show the will to make some cash. Oh, and they will probably steal your implementation, too. So why bother?

    In the US this has led to a permanent "mexican stand-off" where all the big guys hold each other by the nuts because everyone has patents covering everyone else's products. The chances of any real innovation -especially by the "little guy"- in this mess are really, really slim.

    And to those who say "the system is good at heart, only currently being badly applied", may I remember you of the very honorable (not) B. Franklin, the most prolific inventor of all times (not)? The fact that this guy has a semi-god status in the American IP system is quite revealing...

  47. adnim


    my last comment I was thinking of that Dyson bloke when I posted. I need to wake up. The little guy does need protection, at least until he becomes a big fish, then he can afford to protect himself.

  48. Wolf 1

    Let's start by jailing...

    ...Trevor Baylis himself, for being a bloody stupid idiot. See the patent success story that was the dawn of the aircraft industry. Or software patents today.

    Bleh. Axe the entire patent idea. Copyright, yes, that's a fixed expression (a single instance). Patents, no (*any* instance of an idea belongs to me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)


  49. DrDeth

    Awesome Idea!

    The only way that this would be a good idea would be if the government in turn got awarded the compensation. We could have a whole government department dedicated to trawling patents and suing people! This would give a huge boost to the economy by redistributing wealth and lowering taxes!

  50. Stef 1

    @AC 13:14

    Until Macrossan/Aerotel, I will gladly conced that software patents were a grey area in the UK. Not so since: the UK IPO actually comes down *much* harder than the EPO on software applications. Nearly as hard as the Chinese and Polish patent offices, as a matter of fact.

    UK test Q2 "Is the invention implemented in software only?" Yes = application automatically refused. Short, sweet, to the point. And final. Nothing remotely grey about it any more (appeals notwithstanding - but then have a look at UK IPO Comptroller decisions and related Appeals since M/A came in... Don't know about others, but I wouldn't advise a client to have a go, unless his software made some networked robot or spindryer do something new and inventive)

    None of this "further technical effect" malarkey still in use at the EPO (although, to be fair to the EPO, their "notional unskilled but inventive business person" has pretty much killed all of that anyway, and factually results in just as much refusals at the EPO as at the UK IPO).

    Note that the Macrossan/Aerotel test applies just the same to pending applications, as to patents granted X years ago if they were to undergo a validity challenge in litigation today: there might have been a fair few UK software patents granted in the last 10 years (dot com boom and follow-on), but I'd gladly wager 99% of them wouldn't survive the firsty hurdle of litigation (validity check) and are virtually unenforceable today.

    Note at Oliver Jones while I'm back: "I would have thought the European Patent Office offers you everything the UK one does, plus more - protection of your idea(s) across the whole of Europe, not just one country. For one fee, no less"

    Once granted, an EP patent becomes a bundle of national granted patents (according to which EPC countries the patentee designates and validates at grant. Not necessarily all EPC countries at all, could be just one or two). Put simply: one place to prosecute, many patents to enforce in respective jurisdictions (with EPO and then validations fees vastly more expensive than the UK alone, btw - by orders of magnitude).

    I work for a small provincial private practice, and can vouch that we have a good number of "little guys" who are doing very well out of their unique or small number of patents. Personally, I always describe patents as a "corporate swiss army knife": it's just a tool to facilitate a lot of corporate procedures, actions and opportunities in all kinds of predictable and unpredictable ways, but should never be taken as the be-all-and-end-all of a company. Business circumstances alone should always dictate whether to try and get one or not, never the prestige or perceived merit of an invention, or the textbook 'thou shall not steal my idea' principle, or some other non-Real World bullshit reason.

    Third pint. Guess I'll get a cab tonight.

  51. Anonymous Coward

    Trevor Baylis...

    is an unmitigated prick, as anyone who has ever seen or heard him speak will know full well.

  52. GreyCells

    It's mine, all mine...

    ...and I don't share.

    Greed always exposes mankind's worst side.

    Note that the quote is slightly inaccurate: "...the patent is *potentially* worth a million pounds..."

    A bit like saying my lottery ticket is potentially worth a million pounds.

  53. Richard 102

    Be careful

    I just filed a patent on the letter 'e'. You all owe me big time.

  54. Infernoz Bronze badge

    What a loser!

    Trevor Baylis is a patent troll, cry-baby, he's upset because the Tiger economies are making superior, lower priced, products, to his. I have one of his old torches (a present), it's heavy duty rubbish filament bulb trash, the battery life was pathetic, the generator a pain to turn, and it broke; the far east upgrades I have are a far superior LED based, at a fraction of the price of his new LED based models.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least Trevor gets the problems with patent law into the headlines...

    Want better search results than Google? I've got a simple solution - but why should I give it to Google (or Microsoft) for them to make a killing while I get nothing? It's a software fix so I can't patent it in UK.

    OK so let's look at something I could patent in UK. I've got an idea for improved outdoor activity/hiking equipment. I could patent it, I'm advised that could cost £5k. By getting a patent I would put the concept into the public domain. I can't afford £5k, if I could then I'd not be able to afford manufacturing & marketing costs. So someone else harvests my idea from the patent publication, manufactures, makes money. I find out and want to enforce my patent. The lawyers say "OK put £50k on the table and we'll get on the case..."

    Net result: why the hell should I share my ideas or waste money on protection that isn't very effective?

    Fundamentally that's what Trevor Bayliss is on about, his solution is unworkable but he is doing us a service by using his relative fame to highlight the fact that the patent system isn't fit for purpose. By saying "Bang them up..." he's getting the story noticed even on such an august organ as TheRegister!

    Will anything change? At best a group of interested parties will be put together to review current patent law, inevitably that will dominated by the powerful vested interests with a token gesture towards Trevor or FSB and the final result will be skewed to screw the small guy. Again.

    Many of the historic successes of UK have been from our creativity, inventiveness, initiative. As an economy we need to encourage not stifle that. We are currently in deep economic s**t and large companies aren't going to get us out of that. Individual innovators, small start-up businesses could - but the entire system is biased towards big. What chance has a corner shop got when Tesco opens across the road?

    Some suggest that most patents are taken by larger organisations and therefore the law need only be concerned with serving them. No, larger organisations have the financial strength to fund and defend their patents, I suggest there are large numbers of innovative and worthwhile ideas not getting patented because the inventor can't fund the process. Some simply shelve the idea or manufacture without protection and pray that they can make a few quid before their innovation gets copied. They still face the risk that the patent trolls will hit them with a threat of litigation based on some dodgy alleged prior patent giving them the choice of paying compensation and royalties because, however defensible the case may be, the legal costs of fighting would be unaffordable.

  56. Mark 29

    @Infernoz and Steve

    Trevor can hardly be called a patent troll; he's a genuine inventor of the old school, with a number of practical inventions to his name and your comments that his products are expensive and less reliable simply reflect the fact that version 1.0 of a product is intrinsically going to be less reliable, with less features and less well engineered than version 2.0. I'd say he's second only to James Dyson in his application of simple ideas to old problems.

    That said, I still believe the patent system to be anachronistic, and agree that Trevor is raving to demand criminal penalties when patents, often deliberately worded in a barely comprehensible fashion, are unknowingly breached.

    There does need to be some form of global patent system, and there does need to be a high quality of review before patents are granted. In software, where the development cycle is so rapid, patents should be of very limited duration (say 5 years) - just enough to give someone a head start in the market, or they should not exist at all.

  57. Patrick Ernst
    Thumb Down

    Prior art

    I can't see why he got a patent for a wind up radio. Hand cranked radios date back to the very early days of radio, whether they were used to charge a battery or supply current directly, I take it as per his wind up clockwork radio. Do trivial extensions of old ideas qualify for patent protection?

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As an inventor with a patent filing...

    I don't actually agree that patent infringement should be considered a criminal offense. The patent system may be severely flawed, but this is not the way to fix it.

    Firstly, people frequently hit upon the same idea independently - over the years I've thought up some brilliant ideas, only to discover when I went looking that someone else has already thought of it.

    Secondly, the overly broad patents that get issued make enforcement a problem, as often it takes many years for a court to decide if a patent has indeed been infringed.... not to mention appeals and counter suits etc. With the caliber of lawyers the corporations can afford, it would probably backfire on the little guys and they'd end up in jail.

  59. Intractable Potsherd

    I often say ...

    ... that the person most affected by a problem is the least qualified to make any comment about it. Trevor Bayliss' ravings do not give me any reason to change that viewpoint.

  60. Simon Dax

    Patently Ridiculous

    Interesting piece here from one of our local Labour Party bods. I think he's got a very good point about the German preview.

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