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Do Patent Laws Really Protect Small Inventors?

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the obvious-things-are-obvious dept.

Patents 267

whoever57 writes "Patent trolls like to claim that patent laws provide a way that small inventors can create products and benefit financially from their invention. One such inventor faces selling his house, despite inventing a product that has sold tens of millions worldwide. From the article: 'Inventor Trevor Baylis says he faces having to sell his house after failing to make money from his wind up radio and is now calling for the government to step into to protect inventors. “I’ve got someone coming around in the next couple of weeks to do a valuation on my house,” says Trevor Baylis, as he walks into the sitting room of his home on Eel Pie Island, in Twickenham, south-west London. “I’m going to have to sell it or remortgage it – I’m totally broke. I’m living in poverty here.”'"

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267 comments

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Of course it protects the small investor (5, Insightful)

SerpentMage (13390) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930539)

The question here is incorrect. The premise is whether or not it protects the small investor. Answer is yes. What the small investor can't do is afford a law team to defend the patent. This is the crux of the entire patent problem these days.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (4, Insightful)

SerpentMage (13390) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930573)

Before somebody says, "well your answer is wrong", remember this. If you had infinite sums of money could the patent be defended? Yes. Thus the problem is not the patent system per say, but the courts that cause these problems. Simply put what needs to be fixed is the fact that lawyers with big sums of money do not have an advantage that lawyers with small sums of money.

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Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930693)

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Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930767)

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Re:begin sequence (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930789)

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30377 77843 96890 82083 52532 53613 82967 78990 38317 90193 62621 72160 76621 84
399 94247 94880 47726 65410 22024 35068 13015 57459 60054 42433 17203 65914 1165
3 11406 64148 20354 25481 53165 20831 12270 44231 56432 88651 37177 24883 23063

Re:begin sequence (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930805)

nigger anus cunt balls homosexual ballsack cumdumpster cumdumpster cunt nigger n
igger balls cunt jew cunt balls fist ballsack cock fist balls cock homosexual ba
llsack homosexual jew fist fist faggot homosexual balls homosexual nigger fist a
nus nigger cunt anus jew balls cumdumpster nigger cock nigger fist anus ballsack
  nigger homosexual ballsack

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72397 99852 71676 78389 04597 11406 71373 12086 03271 45135 91963 88790 00298 35
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879 67579 68312 63308 46162 32366 25980 46119 04133 60215 02760 32794 26614 3194
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316 56360 87239 86043 83489 80400 80083 12025 25178 18826 13308 55609 27793 6864
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385 34209 44018 15566 35810 05407 83187 96208 24909 60164 87094 11427 19357 9484
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999 01662 55243 84521 70926 01708 26359 83726 24090 05556 95669 88900 92915 6582
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135 34436 29279 60855 12116 06667 32892 78017 63132 63597 74269 30275 08903 7546
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896 07958 95206 14924 56916 83070 89922 00011 95818 12130 19910 19132 87658 8775
4 90356 02555 86927 03030 92128 82726 77027 93623 38260 96455 32301 19195 45265

Re:begin sequence (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930815)

anus ballsack homosexual fist whore homosexual balls fist homosexual fist ballsa
ck anus jew nigger anus balls cock balls ballsack whore nigger ballsack balls ba
lls ballsack jew whore ballsack ballsack cock cock whore fist ballsack whore bal
ls balls cumdumpster balls jew whore faggot cock nigger balls nigger cumdumpster
  jew cock balls

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108 47048 21144 25309 01070 58867 03056 45884 86044 35187 91681 89546 70044 8680
8 49638 88562 75789 67477 37286 82155 70210 33988 92228 04285 39189 60807 11419
29009 37662 48394 98072 54149 62851 71101 59113 58801 10331 82402 87542 65012 60
951 37550 36446 19386 61200 54121 59661 59827 10726 29494 20306 81681 20595 0971
6 78439 02164 74811 08497 15740 23233 83962 68975 95737 25538 53690 99078 71237
95184 95697 84575 00230 94042 23739 12436 68973 23886 57182 39476 79440 62891 86
399 71628 89630 32135 36488 44475 44305 90863 75075 87005 59515 28622 43664 5518
7 93925 96321 68539 61125 23380 44624 34364 67416 78294 27097 94291 38792 37287
42825 30599 03090 47457 80291 42686 70325 06147 98598 97814 49972 68038 75154 98
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11770 42509 29666 29675 87157 59950 67167 96306 76826 05470 56316 36831 59062 40
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38112 26255 83810 30991 20358 65594 25054 19353 42772 86900 30362 00099 52227 58
455 21790 13792 74554 48277 74706 96333 39102 21182 84747 00519 14729 11174 6203
3 77581 28892 34613 93574 56285 66295 03932 95648 02132 68208 98598 18325 53593
78079 90707 60457 15443 53264 97578 66792 86723 84205 46551 99506 06932 71819 96
655 98764 35331 07136 15490 82151 59053 86396 73477 69482 11839 88643 77882 2785
7 10632 11475 45015 87674 00406 14850 99983 65835 89008 53382 07009 03461 96322
14365 77721 45458 58213 69847 72449 97220 93757 53008 22654 74204 84068 91657 23
062 47443 96503 11969 11546 57542 70123 94327 29677 77814 35752 89303 93525 7101
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60954 83106 66393 66827 22508 50933 89728 98021 56055 63680 56953 74777 84211 74
375 94726 59098 88145 42730 48431 69113 82731 96611 95227 87845 30927 03132 3380
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87688 82801 32397 31686 45908 84737 28846 90304 72760 43154 09802 90964 74067 89
614 79586 86506 01381 35586 38351 40729 85194 85246 92851 59710 58062 84022 1612
4 50336 79444 55715 13132 62625 79196 25326 88168 75750 06369 09930 32419 40414
54888 86378 96581 86155 52025 05921 49194 24736 10939 28444 90921 33681 14611 25
595 68623 00332 26957 96821 03479 17459 52400 60242 47644 60317 05742 16028 3211
5 52268 92161 34440 03289 53523 12076 31329 32165 17427 00747 5181710970 14974 9
3483 74192 29565 60271 56742 68034 94779 57852 34080 08236 72113 90516 04688 897
23 58937 11473 91619 74781 55903 34181 10983 59860 04505 72790 83491 63841 89450
  76407 37871 36242 59169 56117 73617 06121 66176 45869 34328 67764 07816 43807 7
4202 64658 07451 00915 77677 83862 73198 88050 50671 03086 17220 91509 57906 499
08 09464 19588 74152 64816 96769 50109 18330 71172 56420 40867 11242 64433 36530
  94891 24101 89784 26270 14864 89827 65884 61421 55699 81750 86228 83392 60447 9
7088 19125 38441 68634 93646 13956 56641 27161 36123 39167 82790 78417 51419 771
17 13782 34690 18024 36121 26808 65965 93349 21714 49613 94630 16206 52485 29259
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3058 78550 09039 86255 00727 44135 00023 89484 92010 46648 42930 79423 14815 329
16 12131 68917 37866 21031 42467 08820 55546 19648 16324 45273 69737 90482 87842
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3074 00591 47630 49705 42335 40449 05272 75045 96872 01610 89741 57327 88685 567
52 30063 86643 66907 90376 56834 26859 33824 92323 53918 81730 99150 42294 05977
  64631 14384 37939 73325 51942 51984 09360 81937 99881 79219 27612 54000 88228 2
9680 07320 70806 04729 71835 95825 81242 43315 97497 38299 68218 61392 94538 626
15 25242 34822 88689 01106 11217 02695 69066 21362 78003 06472 63084 49220 53176
  04806 80107 34254 54275 01541 22431 15183 55653 81814 50484 77601 98576 69332 8
4726 10271 25708 79159 40874 43205 78270 83156 88703 43955 68999 88785 35037 492
94 82603 90681 80292 33339 61846 76566 32264 06580 41304 48940 49487 28906 03218
  29871 15097 86927 77286 38013 63172 18900 21673 21383 18181 27360 81991 49193 1
5607 75294 44210 40697 29521 79247 24705 01892 83879 17683 26090 41104 03331 416
38 36604 72744 59967 86576 21800 54092 08300 91031 68811 07835 10922 37149 14247
  65475 08217 61801 71178 43487 58909 57648 32537 63302 99034 89206 76855 53183 9
2887 69140 97262 69603 84471

Re:begin sequence (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930821)

faggot ballsack cumdumpster cunt faggot cunt homosexual nigger homosexual fist f
ist anus nigger cunt cunt homosexual balls faggot ballsack fist cunt fist homose
xual cunt fist balls cock balls jew balls ballsack balls homosexual nigger jew n
igger anus cock cock cock homosexual jew fist ballsack ballsack balls balls fist
  whore balls

73814 35529 33878 81021 16408 40058 01355 81385 84962 49992 70007 80687 08294 88
239 60423 34665 26417 10243 67021 42666 54769 65748 80179 60703 56297 69812 5174
0 82555 53849 26993 94529 01804 40196 84453 54907 21554 08729 40757 48702 12007
03232 10175 04480 68243 28406 75350 71635 18309 14112 86366 35874 58000 26834 10
278 41914 91107 58683 85408 28080 13090 29173 70363 15806 84579 83314 32204 9299
4 82318 88299 70985 98660 05660 60600 24371 48126 06611 13827 03164 20978 47472
70352 28012 43484 12739 13644 88951 27619 84339 41602 78498 83064 36739 68871 77
372 33235 42671 09834 47292 59757 07646 36245 83685 23239 23587 19436 66479 7121
2 29243 16870 98579 12301 26752 13516 31196 50960 10514 56605 30306 20809 06080
12726 85022 70808 14883 06676 04393 81228 91552 14883 65892 06162 93276 84075 93
526 46261 27508 29162 75451 37499 84740 93805 83593 38689 19755 00079 49085 9725
8 06927 57113 04488 50573 37491 40234 92103 20346 41344 73307 09889 06394 43971
25787 11080 24625 36799 82789 62309 27700 21322 34998 78987 70752 17723 67901 92
037 51806 39704 36792 75317 30550 46870 84830 28592 83283 66370 83415 78710 2229
1 26347 27484 17107 97950 43609 11807 68942 16626 95374 43847 18925 00857 44354
86877 86077 88944 60309 50458 72648 01592 23974 58529 03488 19866 82295 76273 55
412 42667 45067 98235 05831 02957 49048 00170 73392 81162 14501 07417 69512 5361
7 63817 07514 39259 32566 90665 52861 29355 12311 50533 92218 11568 68379 31208
70447 83393 70399 33538 24126 50745 06565 75864 04965 52023 11354 49220 32589 94
126 24534 32985 93001 86804 48533 81511 14369 65216 43543 93070 73151 96475 7427
8 78783 87169 18687 73238 31113 31674 94030 07929 04060 98053 11933 80854 65886
91122 34277 37202 71756 88236 78060 32413 89627 91963 19485 34109 71319 09239 72
367 64004 77207 03383 17761 66195 27325 55072 24993 32912 35916 09495 58572 1752
8 45542 86490 30990 93222 86413 81139 34047 80809 05333 01753 67857 57884 74113
32226 11224 78020 70941 57088 41294 68110 32845 51631 19268 22666 02311 30436 11
599 70041 53140 67264 70119 51480 94716 57902 07614 23162 64461 84477 48523 7530
1 25779 89224 84257 49518 57758 82056 40902 63835 56145 69911 20250 56336 81507
60047 44342 82511 56758 81487 80117 27274 81811 61232 43385 26128 17069 48296 72
952 02896 55958 29011 07994 77001 00652 89704 37728 85692 83882 57235 12169 8024
2 79768 04331 70685 32487 89985 90821 27519 04811 37034 16017 97417 05343 29176
16321 58703 42371 29521 56705 06481 94129 48585 53335 77868 83656 73508 67573 28
320 56134 10905 14213 59180 11508 78755 10157 30941 43447 59453 89012 74411 8392
7 56227 74548 64158 65511 31469 75831 07207 76348 24354 40378 73861 68414 16071
91575 88396 29380 15061 20538 58476 02062 14815 13779 53744 49677 05178 03057 62
031 28531 67037 38679 89083 81221 05268 55457 70130 17050 82996 33635 65945 1998
7 59480 15071 01597 34295 02850 82302 44795 42120 99024 42410 68623 12937 70551
68299 63081 52783 74255 42259 55522 11750 67895 28563 82732 19628 11162 26053 92
571 77492 82057 60579 76757 20612 18051 73165 91686 27069 52042 55782 43592 8371
4 13761 53826 51982 52836 58362 03617 08722 34144 11025 78623 27974 75958 82446
07347 24550 95518 85511 59349 55545 66599 85902 37034 06586 42415 00399 52514 14
937 94156 36507 62563 43769 33718 74268 91975 23413 10616 30535 58007 58554 4116
1 46780 53093 98914 33502 78207 64640 89910 92633 00896 13566 87078 94819 19708
92103 65829 11954 12153 47545 05426 42114 48582 21532 93547 35692 43940 56171 96
486 64631 25442 54311 19029 37703 47431 45186 83759 67490 56465 46284 11356 2524
3 25966 04681 09460 81097 85893 23875 61442 94871 76618 72901 57701 29081 11968
06877 78902 57186 71637 22441 66018 26161 42255 68681 52333 24348 40808 10574 46
725 43715 35396 23521 66709 77928 37496 58165 51805 37268 16371 01697 29213 7600
6 03739 71779 78159 99038 43927 31450 96889 17874 81697 76965 85838 00656 82197
79498 14160 32426 78186 96365 20638 62217 69477 02051 31639 37489 75072 47513 06
407 42816 55069 50893 70212 05106 01214 86890 11789 2222 29144 85429 68570 21775
  35148 55756 88486 56054 85907 81000 77640 36204 74669 23570 74662 39673 21518 8
1703 76426 18089 61037 44540 02587 05078 50436 12172 95087 38335 03927 31648 093
13 19963 41092 41767 19242 33019 14257 46595 07670 12306 48732 60787 96325 22998
  64529 44158 99525 75865 03722 27577 62137 21791 22286 89839 77570 08824 03600 7
6444 59003 87010 17788 97042 42169 67358 52202 93967 42448 12232 93425 57535 775
82 16618 74481 46812 21877 17468 29079 84742 44120 00167 15901 37528 87781 04509
  49232 71131 28322 13958 41505 39679 27730 35780 93326 26219 50888 77810 33441 3
5587 92012 20487 41031 52779 07693 17364 26312 90738 32833 93443 21795 34171 751
98 85144 13476 94957 60688 50772 22227 27226 51355 51302 14675 34306 99449 55633
  70691 97378 91032 47603 80065 95550 17839 04074 73643 26705 06633 61130 97043 7
2625 63763 65350 59828 67525 76304 17517 18178 59982 22117 83422 42263 65814 854
65 35674 42329 00606 14653 47402 38797 63215 02774 61404 66337 87368 69293 48274
  89102 12789 63212 50268 04059 41952 33472 41389 16922 16722 52916 24560 27667 1
4564 76550 04675 23055 24154 26032 93757 73021 87486 27527 28463 10512 64111 812
94 79310 87708 28257 15049 08001 30182 48760 76414 03863 22536 60724 07866 61054
  13873 62889 04632 98559 54284 75904 78494 75893 44628 51601 97482 65168 84119 6
8586 31980 56675 00746 86075 47752 46790 23206 13425 52429 26330 08376 02799 237
54 38001 30082 18221 80500 37189 91852 71636 20079 16880 46966 98249 67170 89385
  80503 98663 40401 26399 66002 13345 19547 36438 14855 74651 39639 65127 31760 1
8976 14930 19442 30924 41685 15053 17601 69196 98997 51170 96591 83898 50861 064
36 36511 80089 68585 75773 37787 75000 77992 92535 50758 82943 67441 36464 39584
  06514 23010 26180 07503

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (4, Insightful)

theVarangian (1948970) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931105)

Before somebody says, "well your answer is wrong", remember this. If you had infinite sums of money could the patent be defended? Yes. Thus the problem is not the patent system per say, but the courts that cause these problems. Simply put what needs to be fixed is the fact that lawyers with big sums of money do not have an advantage that lawyers with small sums of money.

Precisely... lawsuits in general are something the average citizen cannot afford if they drag on for any length of time. The legal system has become an instrument of extortion for rich people people with money to burn.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930609)

We're talking about INVENTORS here, moron.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (2, Insightful)

SerpentMage (13390) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930655)

Ah thanks... Sorry I mistyped... And your answer is to call me a moron! Cool, good for you! Thank-you for adding to the conversation.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930695)

Indeed. The real morons are the ones that modded you insightful.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (1)

fbobraga (1612783) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930975)

but it was an "insightful post", sir grammar-nazi

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (4, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930715)

Actually the other point would have been more clever. The inventors themselves very rarely end up owning the patents and defending them. It's more the companies that buy the patents in off the inventors in one way or another.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (0)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930751)

investor, inventor - SAME FUCKING THING in this context.
it will protect them ONLY if they make it big, like really big, without anyone screwing them over before that. in that case chances are that they can attract good sums of money in pre-phase.

one example is actually 3d printing.. the patents on FDM(reprap, makerbot etc style) 3d printing did protect the company that first perfected it. but then again that was around 1989 or so...

anyhow.. the patent is worthwhile only if you're coming up with something really, really next generation idea.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (5, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930651)

The question here is incorrect. The premise is whether or not it protects the small investor. Answer is yes. What the small investor can't do is afford a law team to defend the patent. This is the crux of the entire patent problem these days.

You are partly right. However, in this case the problem has started earlier and it really is the inventor. If you work in a big company and you come up with an invention your idea will go into the patent but you will put it through a patent expert. That person will take your work and turn it into something you don't recognize (there have been quite a few comments like that on Slashdot). What they are doing is taking your idea and generalizing it. They will ask "why did you use a spring" you will say "to store the energy". They will now take that patent and change it to say "in the preferred embodiment then energy will be stored in a spring, however one skilled in the art can also see that other methods of energy storage such as lifting a weight could also be used". Then, when the company changes your idea to use a battery instead that will fall under "other methods of energy storage".

This is before you even get to the stage of losing out due to lack of lawyers to fight in court with.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (1)

Master Moose (1243274) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930967)

So to get full protection, patents should become more vague and theoretical?

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (2)

XaXXon (202882) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930989)

Yes. You get what you patent. It needs to be as general as possible without being so general that you can find prior art.

Also, this is why there are independent and dependent claims in a patent. Basically you can have part of the claim be rejected but not other parts, as long as you properly draw the line when you're writing the patent.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (4, Insightful)

hairyfish (1653411) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931393)

Yes. You get what you patent. It needs to be as general as possible without being so general that you can find prior art.

Can get a patent on "A thing that does stuff"? This should pretty much cover me for everything that is yet to be invented for the rest of time.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (3, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931213)

This has already happened. Try reading some random patents one day and you will see that you probably don't understand what they are about. This is especially true once you know that the only bit which matters, legally, is really the claims. Have a look at just the first claim (the first is normally the most general claim) of a random patent and see if you can understand what the original idea was. The original aim of the patent system was to ensure that inventions were recorded that might otherwise disappear when their inventor died. This has been subverted so that now the aim of most patents is to block competitors from a wide range of activities related to a product or even product idea.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (1)

houghi (78078) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931033)

If you work in a big company (i.e. an employee), it is not your patent.
If you work FOR a big company (i.e. a contractor or as an employee that dispatched from a subcontractor or similar), it depends on what your contact says and the specific situation. I am a lawyer and I can advice you. (Hey, I am on the Internets. I can be anything I like.)

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (3, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931109)

"If you work in a big company (i.e. an employee), it is not your patent."

That is by no means a given in the U.S. It depends on many factors. The only time it is automatic (and not even all of those times), is if it came from work you do for the company, in the normal course of your duties as an employee, for pay, and there are no other agreements.

If it is something you did on your own time, it only belongs to the company if you have a specific agreement saying that any inventions you create while in the employ of Company X belong to Company X. (Such agreements do exist, though I would never sign one. My father got screwed over by one of those. He threw his own time and expertise into inventing a tool that is now in common use, but the company got the patent rights because he had signed that sort of agreement.)

Otherwise, if it is something you did on your own time, it is yours. But you might have to prove it in order to keep it.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (4, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931179)

"If you work in a big company (i.e. an employee), it is not your patent."

Let me give you a real example of what I was saying above. Just hypothetically:

You work for McDonald's. Your contract says you were hired as a "cook" (you flip hamburgers), and there is nothing specific in your work contract about patents.

Later, your manager somehow finds out about your degree in Mechanical Engineering, and asks you to give some thought toward improving a piece of equipment in the restaurant. He says he will pay your normal wages if you take some time during your shifts to find a way to make it better. In the process of working on that milkshake machine, you invent a gadget or process that makes it 50% more efficient (whatever that means for milkshake machines).

McDonald's does NOT own any rights to the patent, because Mechanical Engineering is not "in the normal course of your duties" as a hamburger flipper. Even though you were specifically asked to do it, for pay.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (4, Insightful)

deimtee (762122) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931229)

I think the company would argue that, and possibly win. Every employment contract I have ever seen has a line in there about "other duties as directed". If the manager asked you to improve it, and you did it while on the clock, it would probably come under that clause.
On the other hand, if you saw something you thought could be improved and worked on it in your own time, that is yours.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (5, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930685)

The question here is incorrect.

The question is also misapplied. Trevor Baylis is not a good poster child for "ripped-off" inventors. First of all, he did not invent the wind up radio. [wikipedia.org] He just invented a more practical way of storing the energy (using a constant force spring). But his business partners decided his spring was too expensive, and replaced it with a conventional crank and used batteries to even out the power (the article calls this a "tweak"). In other words they did not use his invention. To suggest he is being "ripped off" because he is not receiving royalties from someone not using his patent is pretty silly.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (3, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930987)

I don't know whether there was any really nasty interpersonal knife-twisting and violatation-of-not-actually-contracts-but-verbally-they-felt-like-them in that specific case(which my account for some of the bitterness swirling around it; but I certainly wouldn't want to be 'guy with a clever mechanical power-smoothing technique' in a world where supercaps have become downright cheap, and the demands of digital electronics of various flavors have driven serious improvements in DC-DC conversion and various techniques for bludgeoning ill-mannered input power into nice clean low-voltage DC...

The question that I'm left with is whether the spring arrangement was simply too expensive in absolute terms(ie, even if the 'intellectual property' were valued at zero, is the BOM cost of the spring +simpler electronics just higher than dumb crank + more sophisticated power conditioning apparatus) or whether this is a case where the patent holder, by holding out for more than he was worth, encouraged people to 'innovate around' the patent.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931091)

He had already licensed the technology. He wasn't holding out. It was a simple bill of materials problem as you surmised.

He failed to notice the electronics age obviated the need for a spring as an energy storage method.

Since all he actually held a patent on was the clockwork for releasing spring tension, when that method became un-necessary, he lost out.

John Hutchinson, chief technology officer at Freeplay, said Mr Baylis had voluntarily sold his shares in the company and that technology had moved on, leaving his original patent outdated.
He said: “Freeplay developed its own technology and by 2000 no more clockwork radios were made. The method was to use human power to recharge a battery.

I fail to see what his complaint in here. Competitors aren't using the ONLY thing his 40 year old patent covered.
He had stock in the company that was making radios with his invention, and sold it. Had he held on to that
he would still be making some money, or at least have a nest egg.

I see nothing to complain about here.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (3, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931129)

"... and violatation-of-not-actually-contracts-but-verbally-they-felt-like-them in that specific case..."

Here is a little bit of Contract Law 101:

If you agreed to something in good-faith negotiation, and there is "consideration" on both sides, and it doesn't otherwise violate law, then it's a contract. It doesn't have to be on paper. That piece of paper is nothing more than evidence of your contract; it is not, in itself, the contract. (Though it must be said that it can be pretty powerful evidence.)

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930709)

What? How does that protect the small investor. IT DOES or IT DOESN'T.

In reality, it doesn't because the system does not work. Patent trolls, high legal fees, a shitty patent office.. Where do you start?

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (4, Insightful)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930889)

The question here is incorrect. The premise is whether or not it protects the small investor. Answer is yes. What the small investor can't do is afford a law team to defend the patent. This is the crux of the entire patent problem these days.

That's not the whole answer. A small-time inventor can't protect himself/herself from patent trolls and patent-hoarding entities simply because they do not have the cash or other resources to do that. As the system stands it places the entities with huge arsenals of patents in a completely unreachable position and these small-time inventors at the rock bottom, favoring the established entities and basically telling small-time inventors not to bother at all. As such the issue is two-fold: they can't protect themselves, nor can they protect their own patents, leaving them all open and vulnerable.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (4, Insightful)

gmanterry (1141623) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930949)

The question here is incorrect. The premise is whether or not it protects the small investor. Answer is yes. What the small investor can't do is afford a law team to defend the patent. This is the crux of the entire patent problem these days.

No. this is the problem with American society now. Unless you are wealthy you can not win if someone with more money attacks you in the legal system. Even if you are 100% in the right the opposition can use their resources to drain what little money you might have and win any legal battle by just delaying and causing you to spend more money you don't have. This is not justice but it is the way the system works.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930997)

The question here is incorrect. The premise is whether or not it protects the small investor. Answer is yes. What the small investor can't do is afford a law team to defend the patent. This is the crux of the entire patent problem these days.

Investor? Is that a fucking Fruedian or what!?

Investor: Leech who ransoms capital to the person doing the creative work in exchange for a large cut of the profits should anything come to fruitition.
Inventor: The guy that does the creative work.

All of IP law as currently written is completely fucked up. It protects those who have money and leaves the creators out in the cold for the wolves to feast on.

Re:Of course it protects the small investor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42931237)

if you have infinite sums of money you can win roulette too (by keeping to play on a field with say on red and doubling the stake every time you lose) but why would you bother then - I mean if you had such resources you would not waste your time and money on things that you do not need like patents or?
 

NO (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930541)

They can't afford a lawyer.

I am on Slasdot - Mom I love you! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930543)

Yes!!!!!! I made Post 13

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930545)

n/t

If you don't want to swim with the sharks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930549)

If you don't want to swim with the sharks go back to the kiddie pool in accounts payable.

No (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930559)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge's_law_of_headlines

Wrong Premise, Approach from a Different Angle (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930565)

Quick disclaimer: I am not an anything.

Do Patent Laws Really Protect Small Inventors?

No. Nor have I ever heard anyway claim that as being their primary function. Let's adjust that to say that patent laws are designed to promote innovation and invention by disproportionately reward the production of ideas compared to the actual work and creation being done. This, in theory, helps any size of inventor put in R&D monies to chase a high reward. And, yes, I do think they have been successful to some extent in doing this although there is plenty of evidence that they have gone too far as of late. They've also been applied to things that probably shouldn't be patentable like genes and software.

One such inventor faces selling his house, despite inventing a product that has sold tens of millions worldwide.

Pardon my anecdotal apathy but so what? Plenty of Americans squander money like it's nobody's business. I'd imagine there are tons of engineers out there that are brilliant inventors but either don't want to or fail to deal with money in a responsible manner. Hell, I've recently been collecting sketch card art and just totalled up my last six months spending. What the hell was I thinking?! American athletes can make millions in a single year and still end up penniless before the age of retirement!

From the article: 'Inventor Trevor Baylis says he faces having to sell his house after failing to make money from his wind up radio and is now calling for the government to step into to protect inventors. “I’ve got someone coming around in the next couple of weeks to do a valuation on my house,” says Trevor Baylis, as he walks into the sitting room of his home on Eel Pie Island, in Twickenham, south-west London. “I’m going to have to sell it or remortgage it – I’m totally broke. I’m living in poverty here.”'

Okay so this inventor is house broke -- he's got nice clothes, the article doesn't say he works three jobs. That leaves me a little curious so I inspected the article which had hilarious counter intuitive subtitles:

He built a home on Eel Pie Island in the 1970s for £20,000

Wow! That bit is interesting! So he lives on an island in the Thames in London?! Okay, I'm going to go ahead and gather that property taxes must be insane. Could he afford a house in the country? I mean, is he selling a house that he can no longer afford to buy a house in a cheaper neighborhood or is he genuinely poor? Which is it?

The property also has a pool (Paul Grover)

Uh, okay so add energy and water bills to the above.

The prolific inventor earns money as an after-dinner speaker (Paul Grover)

Okay so, has he tried getting a 9 to 5 job? I hate to be a dick but I don't think you can invent a particular modification of a radio in 1991 and a shoe that charges cell phones among "250 products" and expect to coast through life smoking a pipe and getting a bennie here or there for dinner speeches. I mean, those were the two most notable inventions?

Furthermore how do his business mistakes equate to a breakdown of the patent system:

Due to the quirks of patent law, the company he went into business with to manufacture his radios were able to tweak his original design, which used a spring to generate power, so that it charged a battery instead. This caused him to lose control over the product.

Man, I wish PJ would deconstruct this so I knew what was going on. So what that tells me is that the novel part of his invention was the spring that generated power directly to the radio? And when the company found a different way to do that, they cut him out? Yeah, companies are going to try to screw you anyway they can. The problem is that this screwing could go the opposite way too. I mean, are you really going to say that if you find a different way to accomplish the same effect the rights still belong to the inventor of the initial way to do something?

Basically if he invented the whole device, I don't know how adding a battery could cut him out completely. Anyone have that answer?

Patent reform is badly needed. To tailor it to this poor unfortunate soul's anecdotal evidence might just make the situation worse. I am suspicious of this piece because it relies on soft journalism describing how human Mr. Baylis is in his grandfatherly estate and stays away from the hard numbers or specific details of precisely just how he was wronged by the patent system.

Re:Wrong Premise, Approach from a Different Angle (5, Informative)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930729)

I'll be the first to admit that the entire patent system is a horrible mess that is now doing more harm than good. But this story is about something entirely different.

Out of 250 claimed "inventions", which include such nonsense as a "self-weighing briefcase", he invented one item, 20 years ago, which took off and sold fairly well, but has now been replaced by newer technology. Apparently he seems to think that he should be able to live forever on the royalties from that single 20 year old patent.

Re:Wrong Premise, Approach from a Different Angle (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930833)

A self-weighing suitcase, anyway, would be a great idea. Airlines have luggage weight limits these days, and the limits vary.

On the other hand, you're right, there's no particular reason he should be set for life because of one invention, and if he didn't get a license that granted him royalties on derivatives that's a bummer, but it's his bummer.

Re:Wrong Premise, Approach from a Different Angle (0)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931285)

glueing a weight measurement device to a briefcase is hardly an invention though. if all the inventions are of that grade, "storing energy in a spring" "use digital scale as a handle", then it's no wonder he's going nowhere. patent system was never meant to cover such.

had he invented a novel way to detect stretch by conductivity or some such really novel piece of the scale on the other hand..

Re:Wrong Premise, Approach from a Different Angle (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930893)

Not quite. His invention was storing the energy from the wind up in an efficient spring design. It was not the wind-up part itself. The manufacturer changed it to a battery system and cut him out. That is it. Even under his proposed solutions, which include a novelty requirement and much longer terms to patents, he wouldn't be covered. This is because his improvement was from cruddy batteries to a clockwork type spring system; their improvement was from clockwork type spring system to modern batteries. So, for him to win, you need to argue that the switch from battery to spring was a novel change, such that it is a completely different product, but the change from spring back to battery was not, such that it is a completely different product. I don't see how a rational person could say that one is and the other isn't.

Re:Wrong Premise, Approach from a Different Angle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42931131)

That second to last sentece should end with "...battery was not, such that it is essentially the same product."

Work a day, eat for a lifetime (3, Insightful)

fox171171 (1425329) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931147)

Apparently he seems to think that he should be able to live forever on the royalties from that single 20 year old patent.

He probably has friends in the music industry.

Re:Wrong Premise, Approach from a Different Angle (1)

houghi (78078) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931167)

Stoopid him. It is a patent, not a song.

Re:Wrong Premise, Approach from a Different Angle (3, Insightful)

openfrog (897716) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930917)

From the article:

Mr Baylis has been lobbying for the patent system to become more robust and to turn the theft of intellectual property into a white-collar crime that carries a prison sentence... Currently patent infringement is considered to be a civil matter in the UK rather than a criminal matter... ...Students need to be taught about intellectual property in schools...

Mr Baylis is representing himself as the small guy (incorrectly claiming the invention of the crank radio), making the exact case that the big guys are currently lobbying the government for.

If Mr Baylis had been what he pretends he was, with the laws he is advocating for, he would have risked ending up in prison on top of losing his house.

Re:Wrong Premise, Approach from a Different Angle (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930999)

Baylis' real problem is that he is acting as a lobbyist without getting paid for it... If he could get even a few patent trolls(sorry, sorry, 'non-practicing entities') kicking some 'consulting' fees his way, he'd be all set...

Re:Wrong Premise, Approach from a Different Angle (1)

stephanruby (542433) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931073)

He built a home on Eel Pie Island in the 1970s for £20,000

Wow! That bit is interesting! So he lives on an island in the Thames in London?!

Yes, here is an example of a house [zoopla.co.uk] Eel Pie Island (It's not his, but I'm just linking to it as a reference point). Obviously, if he just sells his house, he should be able to rent something a bit more modest, and not have to work ever again for the rest of his life.

The next thing he's going to tell us is that he's selling his Rolls Royce, just to be able to afford macaroni and cheese. For someone who didn't even invent the wind-up radio originally [wikipedia.org] , but only invented a derivative of that idea (which is now no longer in use), he's still in denial and still has huge feelings of entitlements. May be the patent system should be reformed, like he says, and his house should be given to the original inventor instead.

 

Re:Wrong Premise, Approach from a Different Angle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42931289)

well they got Al Capone on tax things - you do what you can and we collectively cannot do much, can we? I mean this hole hoopla about things like patents or copyright does not directly affect a lot of people that can tell it did affect them so how they are going to complain to their congressman. This is all the same with al such issue: too complex to tell common man why it matters which leaves lobbies alone to do the convincing.

I can't be the only one who googled (2)

doctor woot (2779597) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930581)

Eel Pie Island to make sure it was a real place and not some shit Apple Maps invented.

Re:I can't be the only one who googled (0)

larry bagina (561269) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930927)

I think it's where eel girl [encyclopediadramatica.se] comes from.

Re:I can't be the only one who googled (1)

foniksonik (573572) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931495)

It's where The Rolling Stones got their start. Wasn't quite so gentrified back in the 60s though. A bit of a hole at the time but an artsy hole where everyone went to hear crazy tunes and get snockered.

Re:I can't be the only one who googled (3, Informative)

anagama (611277) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931525)

FYI, akin to bathtub girl. Click only if you wish to be grossed out.

Answer: It Depends (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930587)

It depends.

On one hand, it seems that a small inventor should be able to develop, market, and sell an invention without a giant corporation coming along, copying the idea, and selling the same thing for cheaper, in higher quantities.

On the other hand, it is damn near impossible to develop, market, and sell an invention today without "infringing" upon untold numbers of patents. Large corporations can play this game with their legal departments and large financial resources, but the small inventor is pretty much fucked.

The only people winning at this game are the lawyers. Follow the money.

It's a sorry and pathetic situation and I hope the western world's economy pays dearly for it in the years to come.

Patent trolling should become a crime (1, Offtopic)

cribera (2560179) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930597)

Better evaluations should be built, to differentiate real innovators from patent trolls.

The supposed inventors should leave some kind of economical guarantee, that would be collected by the state, if it's a trivial patent or a troll is detected.

Real innovators would get refunded everything, and would even get tax breaks as a plus for their efforts and the risk they took.

The economical punishment to the rejected patents, must be high enough, to fund the more strict evaluation process, and would serve as a deterrent for patent trolls.

Re:Patent trolling should become a crime (1)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931069)

That would just result in corporations being founded just to register trivial patents. If the patent is then rejected the corporation goes bankrupt and no fees are paid.

true (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930605)

To the author: after reading this article, I wanna suck the breasts of ur wife and wanna know the depth of ur daughter's pussy.

Short answer. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930611)

No.

I'm not trying to be sarcastic, but under current U.S. law, it's nearly financially prohibitive to defend against a claim.
At this first to file is utter nonsense, too. Very bad. Let's throw out prior art.

Not entirely related, but in the early 80's I was acquainted with author. He was approached by Disney to turn one of his
books into a movie - paid him cash-money up front, too. Well, he's thinking 1-2 years... Still haven't seen the movie.
There are companies stockpiling ideas out there like Real Estate - except'n they really ain't real. That's were the
current suite of laws have led us - to this incredible stagnation. Oh, it'll take some time before the wheels finally grind
to a halt, but they will....

CAPTCHA = locust - there's never just one...

Re:Short answer. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42931223)

First to file has nothing to do with prior art. If there's prior art, then there's no patent. All it says that is if I turn in a patent on the same thing a day after you, you get the patent, as opposed to the first-to-invent method where we both bullshit about when and where we were when inspiration struck us and how quickly we developed this completely novel idea in order to convince the USPTO that we really did invent it first.

Tax net liquid value of assets not activity (3, Insightful)

Baldrson (78598) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930613)

Patent fees are the only asset tax imposed by the Federal government -- and they fall directly on those least capable of paying them at the same time as they fall on those we should least expect to pay them.

Taxing the net liquid value of assets at modern portfolio theory's risk free interest rate, rather than taxing economic activity [blogspot.com] , is the way out of this abominable situation in which independent inventors are put through the meat-grinder.

Of course, the wealthy will oppose this in every way since they currently benefit from the protection of their property rights without having to pay for that protection, while those producing wealth pay the taxes.

This means political solutions are out of the question.

So, rather than having the corrupt, evil, stupid and/or ignorant drag down the rest of us into political economic Hell, all inventors should demand sortoracy: Sorting proponents of political theories into governments that test them. [sortocracy.org]

Re:Tax net liquid value of assets not activity (3, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930689)

You do know that patent fees are on a sliding scale depending on the size of the patenting entity?

http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/qs/ope/fee100512.htm#maintain [uspto.gov]

What kills the independents are the legal costs. They are generally 3 orders of magnitude larger.

Re:Tax net liquid value of assets not activity (1)

Baldrson (78598) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930743)

Even if there is no legal contention of the patent, the international patent fees, alone, place an already-strapped-by-development-costs independent inventor at the mercy of concentrated wealth.

Re:Tax net liquid value of assets not activity (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930861)

You do know that patent fees are on a sliding scale depending on the size of the patenting entity?

That actually makes the situation worse, not better. If we have bad patents, it is because they are granted by the patent office. If they are granting bad patents, we have to look at why. The answer is obvious: they get paid for granting patents. This is, of course, patent bullshit, ha ha ha. They should get paid for patent applications, but not for refiles (maybe only if they are excessive.) That would encourage them to streamline the application process and it would remove the incentive to rubberstamp any patent that comes through the door. But also, if a larger entity pays more for their patent, then they have every incentive to find in their favor in the case of competing patents, and the result is actually less protection for actual humans.

Re:Tax net liquid value of assets not activity (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931355)

Fees include application and maintenance, not just issuance. It costs money to run the patent office, and these fees bear some relation to the costs incurred, which is as it should be.

No, they do not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930621)

Patents are only worth the legal protection you can provide to defend it. If you send a cease and desist letter to a large corporation because they're infringing your patent, the typical response will be "We see your patent and raise you one thousand lawyers."

Re:No, they do not. (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930877)

Hence his request to make it a criminal offend. Because then you can answer to that "I see your one thousand lawyers and raise you a Crown Prosecutor."

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930625)

Uh, "No".

Here, the patent laws functioned exactly as designed. He got protection for what he disclosed. His patent encouraged further innovation around his limited disclosure. The portable electronic-buying public is better off for having more choice. If he's losing money to devices which do not infringe his patent, tough titties. If a court were to extend his protection to aspects not disclosed in his patent, then HE would be the patent troll.

The only failure here is a lack of imagination by him, his patent attorney, and the author of TFA.

Wrong question. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930661)

The question should be, "Are patent laws ethical?" The answer to that question is "no." Patent laws hinder real property rights, are essentially monopolies, and following from that, are a terrible thing if you care about the free market in the least. Copyright and patents need to vanish as soon as possible, but as we have countless people who hate freedom, I suspect that won't happen for quite some time.

Yes, but no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930667)

One of my college professors liked to point out it really just gives you a license to litigate. His relative had a patent, and was approached by a large firm to license it. When they thought the price was too high, they simply used it without permission, knowing he lacked the funds to litigate.

In practice patents no longer protect small developers unless they have cash.

Terrible Bias (0, Troll)

StormReaver (59959) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930723)

The summary has a terrible bias, and has nothing to do with small inventors being steamrolled by patent troll portfolios. What this article is actually about is someone patenting an exceedingly trivial idea (storing energy in a windup mechanism to deliver that energy to some device; an idea and implementation that has been around for at least a century), and complaining that his trivial rehash of an old idea was used by another company with the resources to actually produce said trivial products.

Now he wants his government to criminalize the use of ancient ideas if he can't make money off of them. He isn't a small inventor; he is a con artist trying to steal from the public domain.

The clockwork approach is obsolete. (1)

Animats (122034) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930731)

Radios with a generator charger aren't new. I had one in the 1980s, and they go back at least to WWII. The problem was that no battery charging occurs unless you're cranking hard enough to get the generator voltage above the battery voltage. Then you have to have a governor or voltage limiter to prevent overvoltaging the battery. So you have to crank at just the right speed, and there has to be a mechanism to enforce this.

So this guy used a clockwork mechanism with a big spring to power a small generator, which was more convenient. You can wind fast, or you can wind slow; it doesn't matter. Then it occurred to others that DC voltage conversion isn't hard any more, and it's straightforward to build a charger that will work off whatever is coming from the generator. So you get rid of the clockwork and replace it with a crank generator, switching power supply and battery. The OLPC has a gadget like that.

Re:The clockwork approach is obsolete. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930865)

The OLPC has a gadget like that.

Yes, they do, but they only used it for the XO-1. Their new machine won't support it. They have lost their way.

Re:The clockwork approach is obsolete. (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930895)

The battery versions defeat a part of benefits, though.

The whole point of the spring was to be simple and low-tech. These are supposed to be low-maintenance radios that not only can be used in remote areas without power supply, but also can be stored away for years and still be expected to work when needed.

I'm pretty sure that in a low-technology environment, you're more likely to be able to repair or replace a spring with local materials than a battery and charge pump.

I'm kind of upset that no one makes the spring version any more.

Re:The clockwork approach is obsolete. (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931399)

A hand crank-generator-battery system does not require care to prevent damage to the battery in most cases. The battery's IV curve takes care of all the limiting required, and you're not going to overcharge the battery because it takes one hell of a lot more cranking to overcharge the battery than it does to pump it up enough to get it to run for a few minutes.

Patents are not a license to print money (4, Interesting)

Grond (15515) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930737)

A patent is not a substitute for a viable business model. One cannot simply receive a patent and wait for the money to roll in, especially not as technology changes around you, quite often in order to work around your patent.

In this case, in 1991 Baylis invented a generator that was based on storing energy in a spring, then using a system of gears to release that energy steadily to power various devices such as a radio. But by 1995 wind-up radios were on their way out and by 2000 they had been entirely replaced by battery-based radios. His invention was a flash in the pan.

So Baylis had a nice idea, made some decent money off of it, but failed to turn that into a sustainable career. Now he wants the entire UK patent system modified in order to rescue him from his misfortune.

Re:Patents are not a license to print money (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930923)

Wind-up radios have been around for a long time and will continue to be around. Baylis didn't invent them, he came up with another way of building one (using a spring for energy storage). It turned out his way wasn't as efficient as other ways (using a capacitor / battery for storage), so he didn't make much money.

Re:Patents are not a license to print money (1)

theVarangian (1948970) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931337)

A patent is not a substitute for a viable business model. One cannot simply receive a patent and wait for the money to roll in, especially not as technology changes around you, quite often in order to work around your patent.

In this case, in 1991 Baylis invented a generator that was based on storing energy in a spring, then using a system of gears to release that energy steadily to power various devices such as a radio. But by 1995 wind-up radios were on their way out and by 2000 they had been entirely replaced by battery-based radios. His invention was a flash in the pan.

So Baylis had a nice idea, made some decent money off of it, but failed to turn that into a sustainable career. Now he wants the entire UK patent system modified in order to rescue him from his misfortune.

His original idea was a wind up radio for areas where batteries are hard to get ahold of. Another motivation was that batteries are not exactly affordable in many poor communities in developing countries and people in the these communities have to spend a significant amount of their disposable income to buy batteries, a fact that seems to be hard to understand for 1st worlders who buy batteries by the dozen and throw them away without a second thought. At least that's what Baylis claimed in an interview I watched back in the 90s.

The patent system works in this case... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930761)

Trevor Baylis came up with a neat idea and patented it: turn a handle to wind up a clockwork spring and let the spring turn an alternator to generate a small current for a few minutes. He made wind-up radios, got money from them and became moderately famous in the UK. If you wanted to make a wind-up radio, you had to license the patent and pay Baylis a royalty.

Then some more innovation happened. Someone realised that turning a handle connected directly to an alternator could charge a battery. And idea was ages old so no patents needed. So they could make a wind-up radio without having to pay Baylis a royalty.

This is how the patent system is supposed to work.

There's more to this story... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930769)

Read the article. The items being sold today aren't the ones he owned rights to and the article has a claim that he sold his interests in the company that is now making them. His design had a wind-up key that ran a clockwork that provided power. The current design has a handcrank that winds to charge a battery that then runs the radio. These are NOT the same design and while being made by the same company I'm not sure he would have any rights to the income from it.

The only part of the story that rings weird to me is a statement that his now obsolete (?) patent was incorporated. Obsolete isn't the right word but I'm not going to reread for the exact quote but it pretty much seemed to say that his patent had somehow expired. If this was done in the 90s that seems awfully short for that to have happened - at least in the US and yes I noticed this was in the UK.

So what exactly is he expecting to be the remedy? Someone like himself has an idea and gets paid for life by everyone? I dunno', I'm not convinced on the basis of this article that he has somehow been horribly wronged or ripped off - particularly if he voluntarily sold off his interest in the company that's doing so well.For that matter - is that company doing well? Millions of sales do not always mean huge profits either.

Patents == Waste (2)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930777)

A Patent doesn't protect an inventor, it protects the idea! If the inventor can't sell, market or project his idea then it's not the systems fault they go broke. Blaming the patent for not working doesn't give the inventors a sense of business. inventors can't just be tech guys, they need to also be buisness guys

he failed, not the laws (2)

um... Lucas (13147) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930799)

He said it himself:

"“I was very foolish. I didn’t protect my product properly and allowed other people to take my product away."

He was foolish. Enough said. If you don't take advantage of the laws and protections that you're afforded, and then you get screwed, it's not a failing of the laws, it's a failing of the inventor.

Re:he failed, not the laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42931011)

He said it himself:

"“I was very foolish. I didn’t protect my product properly and allowed other people to take my product away."

He was foolish. Enough said. If you don't take advantage of the laws and protections that you're afforded, and then you get screwed, it's not a failing of the laws, it's a failing of the inventor.

When you've invented something, and successfully found your way around the arcane legalities of protecting it, please let me know.

Until then, please shut up.

It's easy to say "I was foolish" in hindsight, and it's easy to criticise others afterward for being foolish. But no-one who's been there at the start of the process and had to work it all out for themselves would join that criticism. Mr Bayless may call himself foolish in hindsight. I would say he was naive. He simply didn't know what he was getting into, and he made mistakes.

The system does a great job at protecting those who know the system and how it works. It sucks at protecting those who don't have any experience with it.

I guess the real lesson here is that it helps if you can come up with more than one big invention.

Re:he failed, not the laws (1)

um... Lucas (13147) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931077)

I'm not an inventor nor do I pretend to be.

But the guy created a hand-crank powered radio.

There wasn't much of a market for that I'm guessing, as who wants to crank a radio non-stop just to listen? So the company he worked with created a radio whose battery was powered by the hand crank, and that was the one that sold, not his design.

If HE was Microsoft and the company was him, you'd all be championing them for successfully working around the patent, and making a better product to boot. If he'd patented the hand crank to generate DC power alone, then he'd have had a defendable patent, but he patented a complicated device and someone else came along and created a different device that was similar and improved.

Again, reverse the rolls and the company in the story would be the hero and he'd be the villian for trying to apply a form of patent creep to his original invention...

Hard to enforce a patent under $100 million (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930813)

Speaking as an inventor with six patents, it's hard to enforce a patent until you have $100 million in infringing activity. In practice, almost everybody who gets a royalty deal gets about 5%, +- 2%. (There's a whole theory of IP valuation, but it's not taken very seriously.) So 5% of $100 million is $5 million. Expect legal fees of about $2 million. So you make about $3 million, best case. It's fully taxable, so you get to keep about $2 million. The odds of winning a patent case are about 30%-40%, So the expectation is about $700K on $100,000,000 in infringement.

I've licensed two patents. One I swapped for stock in a startup, and that came out very well. There I wrote one of the startup's products. A straight licensing deal on another made me about $400K after taxes; that was partly about getting my product off the market so it didn't compete with theirs. I'm working on licensing the other patents.

Re:Hard to enforce a patent under $100 million (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930897)

I can pretty much confirm this. I had an invention ripped off and the lawyers flat-out told me that unless I was liquid to the tune of at least $1 million there was no point in pursuing the infringers. Even if I managed to win in court the process was so drawn out and full of potential traps that no lawyer was interested in any sort of contingent arrangement. Their fees were going to be paid in cold hard cash, which meant I had to have serious liquidity up front to even begin the process of enforcement, and that was with no guarantees and at least a 4-5 year process before anything of real consequence happened.

So the short answer is that thanks to the completely fucked up legal system, patents are of absolutely no use to anyone without serious liquid assets to enforce them.

Re:Hard to enforce a patent under $100 million (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42931079)

As someone who has been on the receiving end (AC for obvious reasons...) there's bound to be someone out there that'll take your case. My company had about a dozen customers and about $40k in assets when we got our first nastygram from someone who claimed to have invented doing what we do on the internet (using a single server, literally specified in the claims as a single server) a year before we started doing it on the internet using a three-tier architecture (my first indoctrination into the fucked up concept of the doctrine of equivalents). The only difference is that if you've got a huge multimillion dollar case, the letterhead headliner guy (the first Dick of Dick, Dick and Bob Associates LLP) signs the letter the paralegal team drafted, and when you've got a $40k case you get some guy who just graduated and probably had to write his own letter, and maybe in 30 years he'll earn the right to be the fourth associate.

Is It An Invention? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930817)

Using human power to drive tiny appliances is hardly new. It might be a bicycle with an old fashioned generator touching the wheel or a charger that powers a battery on any other device. Simply adding a radio and packaging it and the generator together is hardly worthy of patent in my humble opinion.

My family's Experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930885)

Had a great uncle who worked for Tidewater for 45 years.

He created several patents for oil recovery methods, and helped develop the Venezuelan Oil fields. Today, his patents are used for recovery of 90% of planet earth's oil recovery. His Patents were honored to him by the patent office, William M. Harrison. But that did not stop Patent trolls by the largest of corporations. He fought so long that by the time he won, his patents were a moot point, and could be used by anyone. Their were casualties, the Judge in the case(s) DISBARRED the Lawyers involved from ever practicing law in the State of Texas for all time, due to the sheer level or corruption.

Justice was not served. He only wanted $1 per barrel for Royalties... If it wasn't due to Greedy hands, he would of been the Richest man of all time on earth, the first Trillionaire. In short when level of greed this high, Plus patent trolling, no small business entrepreneur can cope or meek out a reward, if the system can be corrupted.

It's not a matter of where in the Patent application system that went wrong, but what level of money, greed, and profit that defines where...

-This is my Family History so their is no higher form of backing up of this information can be provided (short of the patent #'s)

Re:My family's Experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930951)

Your story sounds fake, but the lessons therein are absolutely spot on.

Patents have no power in the hands of those who actually need them. They've become nothing more than a weapon for the super-rich corporations to fight each other with.

Unless you enjoy spending your life in court and have the $$millions$$ it would take to do so, holding a patent does you as much good as holding stocks in a failed startup. It may sound impressive, but that's all you'll ever get out of it.

Re:My family's Experience (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42931053)

May sound fake but I guarantee it is REAL.

My Great Uncle ended up living on Social Security. His process involved using "soaps"

To his credit ~Was THE FIRST HUMAN to scientifically discover the toxicity of plutonium. He was the lab guy, on the Manhattan project who fed Plutonium to lab rats on the order of a few parts per billion. The next day the lab rats were dead, so he then fed the dead rats to the beetles, as they would leave they bones intact so they can study how much of the heavy metal reached to bones. The Following day the beetles were dead. and he was quickly shuffled off to another lab there in Rochester.

Oh here are some of his later patent #'s 4679627 , 4648449, before he retired. at least 2 of them. He even was THE person who created teh oil eating bacteria, How? he used a high potency UV light to scramble bacteria DNA, and observed the effects. He was the first person to deliberately alter the DNA for scientific purposes and file a patent

infoWrmative trollTroll (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42930905)

sure that by the questions, then look at the Usenet is roughly short of a miracle by simple fucking out of bed in uthe the problems about half of the

And the alternative is....? (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930973)

I'm sure most will be complaining about patent laws but the problem is what's the alternative? Already Chinese businesses can have a knock off on the market weeks after you launch then flood the market. The joke is if you have it made in China there's an excellent chance the knock off will come out of the same factory using your tools. What option other than surrender does a small inventor have? For years now at best you had a year before a completing product and now I'd say it's 1 to 3 months. Considering most items will have a 3 to 5 year payback before they go into profits it's almost impossible to succeed without large sums of cash.

Of course it's not for them (1)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year and a half ago | (#42930991)

The purpose of the patent system in the 21st century is for big businesses to keep small competitors out of the field. If the inventor gets anywhere from it, that's nice to advertise, but it's nothing to do with what it's for.

It's like copyright. If it benefits the actual artists, that looks good in the advertising, but if it ever does happen it's strictly a side-effect - it exists to benefit the publishers.

No, Hell No, They Can't, They Won't. (5, Insightful)

cozytom (1102207) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931003)

Lets say someone invents the best thing ever, better than anything you could imagine. This thing will make people want to be with you, or leave you alone, as your preference. It will make food taste better, and you will be happy for the rest of your life if you use this thing. This person gets a patent on it, and sets up a factory to build these things. This person has a perfect business plan, the product price includes the R&D costs, some blue sky, and he pays employees a fair wage.

Evil company X decides this product is easy to make (they read the patent, it was easy to figure out) so they set up a factory across the street, and sell the same thing at a lower price. They don't have any R&D (other than a read of the patent), they pay lower wages, and use cheaper packaging.

No big deal you say, he has a patent on it. Ok, he calls his lawyer, and says, I need an injunction, and I want an infringement suit and I want treble damages. Law being a civil profession, his lawyer calls the evil companies lawyer, and they go to lunch (which our hero is paying for). His lawyer comes back, and says evil company X wants to go to trial. Our hero believes he will win, so of course he says yes, lets do it, we will get the injunction, and treble damages, I'll borrow money from whoever to pay for this adventure.

The lawyers all have a few more lunches (not at McDonalds I can assure you), and they chat and scheme, and make a court date. Aha, in 7 months, there will be an initial trial to determine if the injunction can happen.

During the 7 months, our hero has to sell his house borrow against the factory, lay off employees and pay the rest a little less. Evil company X announces a HUGE profit, and is setting up a second factory in Europe. The evil CEO now wants to live in France to educate his daughter, so he buys a chateau.

Well the trial happens, and sure enough, our hero wins the injunction. Cool, now it is on to the civil phase, and the trial for the damages is scheduled for 9 months from now. The customers have all but forgotten our hero's products, and he doesn't have any money to advertise, or build new products, it is all tied up in lawyer fees (and lunches).

Well, dang, evil company X has also run out of money, since they could sell anything, and they have this factory, and a second one in Europe, lawyers and employees to pay. But the CEO didn't sell his chateau, or stop educating his daughter, he just let the corporation file chapter 7 sells the factories to pay the lawyers, while he kept his money separate. He has partnered with some middle eastern investors and is helping them start a lesser evil company Y that makes the same product. This lesser evil company will use a factory in France and build a new factory in India, selling all over Europe and Asia importing the product into the US.

The civil trial begins against evil company X, and no one from evil company X shows up. The judge rules in favor of our hero, awarding them 80 bazillion dollars, which becomes 240 bazillion dollars because it was willful infringement. Our hero is happy, and asks his lawyer to begin collection. The lawyer finds that evil company X has filed chapter 7 liquidation, and has no assets, so there will only be a judgment against them, but no real money will change hands. Because the liquidation happened before the civil judgement, it will be difficult to get anything.

Meanwhile lesser evil company Y is importing this wonderful product into the US advertising and selling in the same stores as our hero's product. Our hero asks his lawyer to get another injunction, but this lawyer is no fool, wants his money up front still. Our hero doesn't have the assets to get any more money.

Yes our hero was right, the patent protected him from honest people. The patent system doesn't protect anyone from a dishonest company. The legal system is slow, and painful. It can take years to be proven right, but still never see any money for being right.

Hero (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42931041)

Trevor Bayliss is considered something of a British hero for his inventions. He gets wheeled out on TV whenever they want to portray the classic eccentric British inventor (and whenever James Dyson is too busy). The fact that he's broke will surprise a lot of people.

But to be honest, he shouldn't be this position -- he has sufficient public image that he ought to be able to make a living on the public speaking circuits. Okay, so he wouldn't get the kind of money from it that Tony Blair is raking in, but he ought to be able to keep the wolves from the door. (for 'wolves', read 'estate agents')

Simple solution? (1)

zraider (759486) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931137)

Why don't we amend patent laws such that a condition of being granted a patent is to have an implementing product on the market within a certain period of time (say, 6 months or a year). If the patent holder fails to come through, the patent is then voided. Same rule applies for patents transferred or sold to others.

Re:Simple solution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42931437)

I've got a great new idea that will revolutionize the commercia airline industry. Do I have to build an airplane to keep my patent.

I've developed that next technology that will keep Moore's law alive for another couple of years. Do I have to produce a processor to keep my patent?

Your simple solution acts as a barrier to entry for anybody not already in the business. The more expensive it is to produce a product, the less likely it will be for someone to muscle into the business.

Simple = stupid

Money management (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42931239)

It seems to me the gentleman is a poor money manager and that's the real root of his troubles.

Sob story, but ultimately lacking. (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#42931539)

Condense the human interest story down, and what you have isn't entirely surprising: It's the story of an inventor who has decent enough technical skills to invent, but not the business skill to successfully profit from his invention. He has a patent, yes - but the patent does him no good because it is narrow enough that an alternative technology came along.

I'm sure I'm legally simplifying the issue, but as best I can see his patent is for a mechanism that uses human power to wind up a clockwork mechanism to drive a compact dynamo. When batteries got more practical and cheaper, the 'clockwork' part was no longer needed. Now, if he were a businessman he would have made the patent as over-broad as he could and patented 'a mechanism for generating electrical energy from human input' or something like that, along with 'human powered radio,' 'human powered torch,' 'human powered general purpose charger' and so on.

People here might start looking for some middle ground: A way to legislate patents broad enough to protect lone inventors, but not so broad as to be useable. But this middle ground doesn't always exist. It doesn't in this case, because what he invented isn't really that great. All he did was take a hand-wound clockwork mechanism (Older than steam!) and connect it to a little dynamo (If Faraday patented that, it's expired). It doesn't exist in the more general case because, outside of some highly specialised areas*, most 'inventions' can be easily re-implemented using alternative designs - and the only way to stop that happening is to allow patents so broad they don't cover technology, but concepts. Putting us back in troll-friendly territory where we are today.

The problem isn't in the implimentation of patents. It's in the concept. It just doesn't work very well. A fundamentally flawed idea. Perhaps we need to get over this idea that the 'lone inventor' has a right to benefit from their work. It sounds great to our sense of fairness, but what it really comes down do is an exclusive right: There's a social cost to making patents half-way effective, and the innovation that results from giving inventors a financial incentive can be very easily outweighed by the innovation lost when small or medium entities are unable to enter the field at all because some sharp businessman realized he can file patents on things broad enough that they are impossible not to infringe** or trivial and numerous enough that they can be used to wage a financial war of attrition against any competitors***.

*Where the implementation is the invention, such as in drugs... and even then, a rival could probably find a similar molecule that shares the same or close-enough functional area.

**One of the ones in the h264 pool describes the concept of a program that accepts video input and outputs the video in encoded form. Not any internal implementation, or even clever maths. They patented the very idea of an encoder. It could probably be invalidated by prior art, but that's the point of a patent pool: There are so many, no-one could afford to fight them all.

*** Rounded corners, swipe to unlock.

It's far past when I should be sleeping on a normal night, and I was up until 5am last night playing Re-Volt with friends. I'm probably going to look over this rambling tomorrow and be unable to figure out what I was trying to say.

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