Thursday, 3 September 2009

Patently Ridiculous

Trevor Baylis - the man credited with having 'invented' the wind-up radio despite having done nothing more than patented the idea of adding a clockwork mechanism to the old schoolboy physics experiment involving a dynamo and a transistor radio - has jumped on the "Nick em all and let the courts sort them out" bandwagon by writing to our Peter urging him to make intellectual property theft a criminal offence.

In an interview with the BBC he said that inventors need more protection against people who attempt to copy or steal their ideas. He went on to say,

"If I was to nick your car, which is worth £10,000, say, I could go to jail. But if I were to nick your patent, which is worth a million pounds, you'd have to sue me."

To which he added,

"And if I was a colossal company, or indeed another country, that had stolen your invention, how could you find a million pounds a day to take me to court?"

On the surface this seems quite reasonable. After all, no one likes having their ideas stolen, particularly if they've put a lot of work into them.

However his true motivation becomes clear when he says the answer is to make stealing a patent a criminal offence. That way the state, and not the individual inventor, would bear the costs of going to court.

In other words what he actually wants is the state - that's us taxpayers - to foot the bill for enforcing his patents.

Apparently people are using his idea of a wind-up mechanism without paying him for it. The fact that wind-up mechanisms were in common use long before he was born is irrelevant of course. Like any patent troll, he still wants people to pay him to use them.

However he's not alone in this. It's estimated that more than half of the world's patents are currently in the hands of 'patent trolls' who use them as a means to extort money from legitimate businesses.

A preview of one consequence of making patent infringement a criminal offence was seen in Germany last year. Major exhibitors at two separate consumer electronics shows in March and August had their stands raided by armed German Customs officers who seized exhibits following a complaint of patent infringement from a well known Italian patent troll. 180 officers took part in the first raid and over 200 in the second.

It's little surprise then that one critic described Baylis' remarks as "Barking Mad".

Inventor urges patent law change
Brit inventor wants prison for patent crims

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