UK Inventor To Lord Mandelson: Make Patent Infringement A Criminal Offense

from the yeah,-that'll-help dept

A whole bunch of folks have been sending in the story of how UK inventor Trevor Baylis has written a letter to UK Business Secretary (and sudden fan of kicking people off the internet), urging him to change patent law to make it a criminal offense, using the same old tactic: comparing an "invention" to real property, and noting that stealing a car will get you jail time -- so why doesn't "nicking" a patent? Well, Mr. Baylis, it doesn't get you jail time for a whole host of very good reasons: when someone steals your car, you no longer have your car. If someone happens to come up with the same invention as you do, both of you still have it. Plus, note in that last sentence that patent infringement rarely involves actual "stealing" or "nicking" of ideas, but usually is about multiple people coming up with the same general idea at the same time. Doesn't it seem slightly problematic to think that you might go to jail if someone else just happened to come up with the same invention you did, but got to the patent office a day earlier? Hopefully, Mandelson will explain this sort of thing to Mr. Baylis, but given his confusion over copyright... that seems unlikely.

Filed Under: criminal, patents, peter mandelson, trevor baylis, uk

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  1. identicon
    Richard, 3 Sep 2009 @ 3:04am

    "It does not matter, who proposed it and why. What matters is: is he right or wrong and is the proposal good or bad. Anyone who attacks the person and not arguing with his proposal is dishonest and discredit himself."

    OK lets examine your arguments then.

    "The identical invention argument is wrong and distracting."

    This is an assertion supported by no logic or evidence.
    Identical inventions do happen all the time and to make the difference of a few hours in filing a patent into grounds for criminal liability is clearly unjust.
    Examples of inventions that were simultaneously invented by several different people include the high pressure steam engine (Hornblower and Watt) the light bulb (Edison and Swann) the telephone, radio, television. I could go on and on - it's actually harder to find things which have a single inventor than those that have many.

    "Yes, there are large corporations who infringe on some patent rights especially on rights own by small individual entities, who cannot afford adequate legal defense. Such infringement undermines trust in the legal system and the public looses out."

    And there are large corporations who use questionable patents to persecute small individual entities. I'm sure these corporations would just love to have their work done for them by the police and criminal justice system at public expense. I'm also sure that such misuse of the patent system undermines public trust in the system even more than infringement does.

    " A country can loose its edge in technology at first and its capability to defend herself at second."

    By that argument each country should ruthlessly steal every other country's technology without paying and keep its own a secret as happens in wartime. Also note that in wartime intellectual property tends to be steamrollered in the interests of the war effort and corporate heads get knocked together as happened to the US aircraft industry in WW1. Oddly, contrary to patent orthodoxy, technological progress seems to accelerate at such times.

    "Super-crime is not far fetched after all."

    At this point I began to wonder is this was a serious post or just super-ironic.

    "The intellectual property is the same as any other property."

    No it isn't. Intellectual property is a monopoly concession by the government. As such it is a right to prevent others from doing something anywhere and using any instance of a physical object as opposed to physical property which relates to a specific physical object or location.

    As such it is possible to infringe an intellectual monopoly concession (in your words to steal a piece of intellectual property) in one's own home using one's own physical property. In the case of patents it is possible to do this without being aware that one is doing it. There are several million active patents in the US alone, many more in the world. Have you read and understood them all? Without having done so it is impossible to engage in any kind of manufacturing trade and be certain that you are not breaking the law.

    "If it is stolen, it lost its value to the owner."
    Clearly it doesn't lose all it's value. Whether it loses any significant value is disputable.

    "It is not true that now both the victim and the thief has it."

    Well clearly they do so this statement is simply incorrect. Again whether the original owner and the thief now have something of lesser value than what the original owner had is a moot point. Arguably if the value to each is >50% of the original then the net result is a positive to the wealth of the community as a whole.

    "New laws have proponents and opponents based on sense of justice or perception of being future beneficiaries or not."

    But clearly when laws are passed based on the latter, even if a majority support them, then the result will be injustice. For examples of such laws see Germany in the period 1933 - 1945, South Africa 1950-1989 etc etc.

    "Comments shall be judged accordingly."

    This seems to contradict your first point. Do you admit that motivation matters?

    " There is nothing wrong with promoting one's business interest as long it dos no harm and make sense on its own, regardless who proposed and why."

    That's an awfully big if. Arguably these proposals will do some harm and don't make sense so they should be rejected.

    Actually knowledge of the background from which a proposal comes does help in the process of analysing it. For example the revelation that Trevor Bayliss is now primarily a patent "lawyer" rather than an inventor may make it easier to analyse his arguments - although the conclusion reached would not be any different. Also, changes in intellectual monopoly law seem to arrive like buses (in groups) and whereas the first one may seem innocuous the combined effect can be more significant. Knowing the background of the proposer can be useful in determining what the next(as yet unrevealed) proposal is going to be - which may help in the fight against the first one.

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