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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 2:01pm

    What a shock....

    Well, what would you expect from Mr. Baylis, whose sole enterprise, Trevor Baylis Brands PLC, is singularly in the business of securing licensing agreements for inventors. What better stick to have in hand when negotiating price than, "You'll be getting cornholed by Bubba if you say no"?

    And another thing, characterizing Trevor Baylis as a UK inventor is innacurate. He WAS an inventor, and in fact made some very useful, wonderful inventions with some truly noble purposes like assisting the disabled (are we still allowed to say that?) and bringing AIDS education to remote parts of Africa.

    But now he's a businessman, and his business is licensing agreements for OTHERS inventions. He is advocating for what would benefit his business, and in my mind that is always going to trump the notion that he's advocating for what he thinks is RIGHT.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      DJ (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 4:38pm

      Re: What a shock....

      "advocating for what would benefit his business ... is always going to trump the notion that he's advocating for what he thinks is RIGHT."

      Hmmm. Sounds a lot like the concept explored in the 1983 "Trading Places".

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Jake, Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 2:36am

      Re: What a shock....

      I also note that his breakout 'invention' was a radio with a hand-cranked battery charger built in. Exceedingly useful, certainly, but so non-obvious that it deserves a patent? Anyone who's mastered the use of a soldering iron and possibly the basics of wood- or metalworking could make something similar in no more than a fortnight of evenings and weekends, from parts you can buy off the shelf.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Richard, Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 3:45am

        Re: Re: What a shock....

        Well actually the original was a radio without a battery at all. This mean that the energy storage mechanism had to be a spring. He did have to work quite hard to make a clockwork mechanism that could store enough energy and release it steadily enough to work.

        The patent is now expired but using a handle to charge a battery would have circumvented it anyway - provided you didn't use an intermediate clockwork mechanism.

        Actually I think his story is rather sad - from focussing on invention he has become increasingly obsessed with the mechanics of protecting invention by the patent system rather like the Wright brothers did. (Ever wondered why you can't name any aeroplane produced by the Wright's after 1906)

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Jake, Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 8:41am

          Re: What a shock....

          I stand corrected as far as the technical details, but I still say combining a clockwork mechanism with a dynamo to power a transistor radio is pushing it for non-obviousness.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    mobiGeek (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 2:07pm

    Database of patent thefts?

    It comes to mind that it would be in RJR's best interest (and that of other pro-patent folk) to come up with a database of cases involving actual patent "thefts". They could then use that database as proof of the damage done by these thieves.

    I would think that anyone with the breadth of reach of the organisations RJR commands, he would easily be able to develop such a database. It is a simple online application to build and host. Open it to the public and a simple review process to vet out any spammers.

    The power of clarifying the air between patent-theft and simultaneous-invention would completely win public appeal for stronger patent regulation...that is, if such a database could actually show significant damages beyond the converse.

    I wonder why that has not been thought of before??

    (I wonder if anyone has a patent on such a database...)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      ..., Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 5:34pm

      Re: Database of patent thefts?

      Yes, this is a very good idea.
      And hopefully he would use three databases in his implementation

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Ronald J Riley (profile), Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 2:40am

      Re: Database of patent thefts?

      We have kept a list of known patent pirates for a long time.

      Inventors are encouraged to do due diligence on prospective licensees by reviewing legal and news data.

      Generally it is wise to take inventions to companies who are not the biggest in an industry. The dominate company is virtually always fat, happy and arrogant and if they pay attention at all to the inventor it is usually just to rip them off.

      The companies in second, third or fourth place usually desperately want to displace the company at the top and they are more likely to deal reputably.

      This is not always the case, in that some industry segments have developed a pervasive and crooked attitude towards inventors. Examples are the auto and telecom industries. Note that both industries are suffering from the ravages of stagnation.

      Even companies who start as inventors usually lose the ability to produce significant inventions over time. HP is a good example of this. Intel is another. IBM, quantity over quality.

      hat happens to companies who cannot produce the important inventions they need to continue to prosper in their markets who alienate those who are producing inventions? Take a look at the auto industry.

      So the answer is that yes, PIAUSA.org has been keeping score about who is and is not likely to be worth approaching.

      One more point, this is something which changes depending on who is running a company and also who their patent counsel is. Some companies who were very disreputable have improved over time. Others who make have started out with the best of intentions have evolved to do incredible evil. Why is it that success virtually always leads to disreputable conduct?

      Ronald J. Riley,


      I am speaking only on my own behalf.
      Affiliations:
      President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR act PIAUSA.org
      Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
      Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
      President - Alliance for American Innovation
      Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
      Washington, DC
      Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Richard, Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 3:26am

        Re: Re: Database of patent thefts?

        "Even companies who start as inventors usually lose the ability to produce significant inventions over time."

        I wonder why? Could it just be that the artificial monopoly that comes from patent protection encourages them to sit back and rely on lawyers to earn them money rather than getting off their backsides and innovating.

        My feeling is that the ultra-IP brigade aren't really interested in innovation or creativity at all. What they are looking for is the golden goose, the magic ticket that will enable them to sit back for the rest of their lives basking in the glory and spending the royalty cheques.

        For most this is a fantasy but the thought that this dream might be taken away scares them more than any real threat. You see this with the musicians who make no more than a few hundred a year in royalties but scream blue murder at the suggestion that they might lose them. Of course it's not the few hundred, its the thought that somehow they might get lucky and the hundreds might turn into millions. They can't bear to give up the dream.

        Same thing with the inventors. They hang on to patents, shelling out for the renewal fees even though there is no money coming in because they have to keep believing that someday, somewhere, someone will recognise their genius and the money will start to roll in.

        Of course there is a well know psychological process involved in abandoning these fantasies and entering the real world...it's called growing up.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        ..., Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 5:39am

        Re: Re: Database of patent thefts?

        "Generally it is wise to take inventions to companies who are not the biggest in an industry."

        - because they are less likely to have the resources for a lengthly court battle.

        "Examples are the auto and telecom industries. Note that both industries are suffering from the ravages of stagnation."

        - correlation != causation

        and RJR continues to spew biased BS, film at eleven

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        mobiGeek (profile), Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 12:17pm

        Re: Re: Database of patent thefts?

        So the answer then is "no", you do not have a public database of "patent thefts". Meaning there is no independently way of verifying the damages that the activities you are tracking actually incur.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Richard, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 2:24pm

    What is really needed

    ... is some kind of protection for individuals showing their ideas to larger organisations.

    That is the problem that Trevor Bayliss seemed to be worried about when I heard him being interviewed "large organisations, even countries stealing patents", although how you bring the PR of China before a UK criminal court beats me.

    However the patent system doesn't do much for that problem - for an inexperienced lone inventor the patent system is a bit like keeping a gun by your bed to defend against burglars - there is a high risk that the burglar will use the gun on you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    jjmsan (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 2:52pm

    The analogy of stealing a card doesn't really work, but just for fun lets use it. What he want to criminalize is a person who parks his car in a public garage. upon returning he comes across a care with the same license plate same year make and model that his key works in. He then takes the car home. The next day he is charged with a felony because he took the wrong car. How likly is it that if you were sitting on a jury you would find him guilty?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Mr Big Content, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 5:46pm

    I Would Go Further

    Make it a matter of national security—a “super-crime” where normal due process and legal checks and balances are deemed inadequate, like terrorism.

    After all, like terrorism, it strikes at the very foundations of our society—indeed, at the very viability of our existence on Planet Earth. This sort of thing must be stamped out, no matter how great the cost. It is vital that our security agencies are given carte blanche to do so. Anybody who disagrees is clearly psychotic and needs to be put away.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 7:19pm

    Hangin is too good for those patent rustling varmits !!!

    Actually making patent infinging criminal might be just the wake up call patent lawyers needs. Raising the level of proof of law and a trial by a jury of peers ?

    Watch the lawyers scatter ....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    ZAK, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 7:36pm

    Making patent infringement a crime.

    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. The identical invention argument is wrong and distracting. 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. A country can loose its edge in technology at first and its capability to defend herself at second. Super-crime is not far fetched after all. The intellectual property is the same as any other property. If it is stolen, it lost its value to the owner. It is not true that now both the victim and the thief has it. New laws have proponents and opponents based on sense of justice or perception of being future beneficiaries or not. Comments shall be judged accordingly. 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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Ronald J Riley (profile), Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 2:21am

    Jail time & Contributory Infringement

    Mike, when someone steals any portion of the profit from your invention you no longer have that profit. It is stealing, pure and simple and there is considerable merit to tossing top management of large patent pirating companies in jail.

    I have a reading assignment for you. Study Farnsworth and the way Sarnoff used the resources of RCA to persecute Farnsworth for decades. Then see if you can write an unbiased account about them for TechDIRT.

    Incidentally, inducing others to infringe is actionable, it is called contributory infringement. 

    Ronald J. Riley,


    I am speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR act PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 2:33am

      Re: Jail time & Contributory Infringement

      Mike, when someone steals any portion of the profit from your invention you no longer have that profit. It is stealing, pure and simple and there is considerable merit to tossing top management of large patent pirating companies in jail.

      Ronald, pray tell, how do you "steal profit"? Back here, where I live, in the real world, that's normally called competition.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      ..., Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 5:45am

      Re: Jail time & Contributory Infringement

      Jail for a non violent act
      For profit incarceration
      Early release due to lack of funds

      And you suggest making things worse - brilliant !

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      techflaws.org (profile), Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 5:50am

      Just gonna past Pamela Jones's take of Groklaw

      [PJ: Hmm. Let's see. Could we put Steve Ballmer in jail, then, for the i4i patent? Wait. Uh oh. Look at the picture of Mr. Baylis. I think he might be combing his hair in violation of patent No. 4,022,227, Method of Concealing Partial Baldness. Officers, put Mr. Baylis in the clink while we sort this out, will you? And since the CATO Institute recently announced that most companies infringe patents, I believe we could shut down the entire world economy in no time flat by following Mr. Baylis' suggestion.]

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Richard, Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 8:19am

        patent No. 4,022,227, Method of Concealing Partial Baldness.

        Oh No it's real I can't believe it.

        (or rather it was - expired now)

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Richard, Sep 3rd, 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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Griff (profile), Sep 4th, 2009 @ 6:14am

      Also note that in wartime intellectual property tends to be steamrollered in the interests of the war effort

      I seem to recall that before it was used the famous bouncing bomb was patented in the European Patent Office. A colleague of mine has a framed copy of the patent.

      Anyway, it would be morally fairer to say that ONLY after someone had been warned that they were accused of infringing and had been given a reasonable time to cease, THEN perhaps you could start talking about whether it is right to make FURTHER infringement a crime.


      If MicroSoft writes to a 1 man software outfit and asks him to stop infringing (as the law is now), he probably will (they have bigger lawyers) - the law change won't affect that. But if little guy writes to MS, MS currently wouldn't stop. The proposed new law might actually level the playing field.
      Question is, who at MS is going to go to jail if they lose ?

      Maybe damages should be levied as a percentage of the loser's turnover...

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        angry dude, Sep 4th, 2009 @ 6:32am

        Re: Also note that in wartime intellectual property tends to be steamrollered in the interests of the war effort

        "Question is, who at MS is going to go to jail if they lose ?"

        Dude, they should already be in jail
        Their top pig Stevie can use some jail diet to shed some weight

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    AC's long lost brother, Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 8:36am

    It's perfect!

    I can infringe on some completely inane patent, make a bunch of money because I do it better, get arrested, have my high priced attorney negotiate a plea bargain that clearly disallows any civil action - or once I get aqcuitted, I have a mountain of ammunition to bury HIS high priced lawyers.. I love it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    The Happy Infidel, Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 12:33pm

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

    Suppose, in theory only because this will never actually happen, software patent infringement was an enforced criminal offense. You'd be a damned fool to write any commercial software because, given the number, complexity and vagueness of software patents, you'd never know (within your own lifetime and/or at any economically feasible cost) if your software violated a patent or patents. All you would know for certain is that, by releasing oftware, you likely comitted a felony. From the article:
    "Patents can be extremely complex things and the criminal law is simply too blunt an instrument to use when disputes arise." No kidding. Since this idea is so obviously and laughably rediculous, there is nothing to worry about here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    angry dude, Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 1:23pm

    Does somebody have a patent

    to sue Mikey and his shitty blog out of existence ?

    Anybody ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 2:23pm

      Re: Does somebody have a patent

      No need for a patent there, Sparky. Just toss up the $200k and you're all set. I'm sure you have that lying around from all of the business success you've had, so why not put it to good use?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This