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IP freely? What a wind-up! If only Trevor Baylis had patent protections inventors enjoy today

Panicnow

Get rid of IP totally

IP is a tool that is only useful if you have massive resources to design your IP and defend it. Thus it is a tool for major corporates to beat up everyone else. Most individual inventors would be better served by having a level playing-field. I.e. No IP. So they can innovate on the knowledge of others without.

The value of knowledge to society is maximised by it being shared. Restricting it merely cheats society in favour of a few.

The Internet and Open source are examples of how powerful knowledge sharing is relative to closed networks and closed tech eco-systems.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Get rid of IP totally

Perhaps, but it's best not to lump all "IP" together. Patents, copyrights and trade marks are very different things.

The one that should most likely be abolished altogether is patents. Rewarding inventors is a nice idea, but patents do so at a massive cost to everyone else, including other inventors. I don't mean so much the direct legal costs, though they are not insignificant, as the indirect costs associated with everyone having to constantly negotiate the patent minefield. Though a few people get rich from them, they make most people poorer and it's a big net negative for society. They probably inhibit innovation in more cases than they encourage it (though forcing people to work around an existing patent sometimes leads to a useful discovery).

Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

Re: Get rid of IP totally

There speaks a man who has never built anything of value.

Pat Att

Re: Get rid of IP totally

What garbage. If you get rid of patents then there is no incentive for companies to innovate, as anything they come up with will immediately be copied. No more drugs. No electrical device improvements. We'd just keep using the same old stuff we have now, as innovation is expensive.

Blockchain commentard

Wasn't there some conspiracy theory that someone had patented a wind-up radio in the 60's and Trev shouldn't have been awarded a patent in the first place? Ironic if true !!!!

Aladdin Sane Silver badge

"Multiple exclamation marks," he went on, shaking his head, "are a sure sign of a diseased mind."

Terry Pratchett, Eric

Obligatory request for a Sir Pterry icon.

#GNUTERRYPRATCHETT

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

That wasn't true, that was just a wind up.

tony72

@Blockchain commentard - it isn't a conspiracy theory exactly, and Bayliss didn't invent the wind-up radio, his patent was only for a very specific spring arrangement used in his radio, not for the whole concept (although he was more than happy for everyone to attribute the whole idea to him). There are patents going back at least to the 1940's covering the wind-up radio in general. Bayliss' patent was valid, but most of his complaining about IP theft was not, at least as regards his own invention; people moved on to using rechargeable batteries as the energy store in wind-up radios, which meant they did not require his patented spring arrangement, and didn't owe him anything.

John Savard Silver badge

It's certainly true that using a wind-up spring to hold energy, and turning rotational energy into electricity with a generator, were well-known in the art.

PyLETS
Stop

Property is theft

This article conflates and confuses 3 entirely separate property rights which have nothing to do with each other, other than the ridiculous grouping term "intellectual property" as if someone could "own" an idea.

The only natural property right is what a bandit, warlord or crook seizes by force and defends by force. That is how it was before the rule of law. In a democratic society law only works by consent of the governed, and if the public interest grants private property rights to be defended at public expense, the public interest requires compensation for the cost of this, both in relation to the cost of exclusion of those fenced out, and in relation to the cost to the public purse of maintaining legal boundaries around private property. If the land registry records your ownership of a plot of land with a dwelling on this, then you get to pay taxes to your local authority and that's how it should be.

Those claiming otherwise demand from us that those dispossessed subsidise the public cost of private property.

Copyright discussion has traditionally been one sided, due to the inability of politicians to oppose this uncompensated land grab by the man who buys ink by the barrel load and get elected.

Patents are good in the unusual and classic case of an inventive idea that no-one else would have been at all likely to have come up with. But most patents granted nowadays are nothing of the sort and are artificial monopolies maintained at the public expense, raising the price of any mildly innovative product for all of us. Patent offices make their money from patent applications and for applicants to continue to apply for these in large numbers a proportion of bad patents have to be granted making most patents bad. We've given the patent offices a license to print money, and given such a right who wouldn't run their printing press at full speed ?

The only one of these 3 areas of law which works in the public interest concerns trade marks. If John Smith has built a reputation at considerable effort and expense making and selling "John Smith Widgets" (TM), it's entirely reasonably that someone else shouldn't be able to adopt his name and pass off their inferior widgets as if they were his. This should and does not generally prevent another John Smith applying his name to a different trade.

Steve D

Concerning Trademarks

You state "If John Smith has built a reputation at considerable effort and expense making and selling "John Smith Widgets" (TM), it's entirely reasonably that someone else shouldn't be able to adopt his name and pass off their inferior widgets as if they were his. This should and does not generally prevent another John Smith applying his name to a different trade."

However what commonly happens is that John Smith Widgets gets bought-out and the trademark is applied to stuff from China with no connection to the original company. For an example see how Argos butchered the Warfedale brand. I would like to see trademarks returned to their original purpose of consumer protection, and not as something that can be bought & sold with no connection to the original company.

In short, buying a trademark on it's own should not allow you to buy the established reputation unless there is a real connection.

handleoclast Silver badge

Re: Concerning Trademarks

In short, buying a trademark on it's own should not allow you to buy the established reputation unless there is a real connection.

The term "Pyrex" was originally a trademark for borosilicate glass with an extremely low thermal coefficient of expansion. Take it out of a hot oven, plop it into cold water and it survived.

Then Corning sold the brand. The trademark now (in some countries) means "cheap shitty glass that has had blemishes polished out of it so it doesn't go bang on thermal shock unless normal wear and tear has put a few scratches in it." Pyrex (in some countries) no longer has merit.

bobajob12 Bronze badge
IT Angle

Re: Concerning Trademarks

Since this is an IT rag, I'll take a swag. Pyrex and UNIX are two situations where case matters a lot. If the label says PYREX, it's the pre-Corning/World Kitchen stuff - borosilicate glass. If it says Pyrex or pyrex (etc), it's the newer soda lime glass.

If you like to attend yard sales, a pro tip is to seek out older neighborhoods where people are clearing out Grandma's kitchen. Sometimes you can find good PYREX from the 1970s available for a song.

Colin Bull 1
Pint

Re: Concerning Trademarks

However what commonly happens is that John Smith Widgets gets bought-out and the trademark is applied to stuff from China with no connection to the original company.

Hear , hear.

You can get cornish Doom Bar any where in the country but it is mostly brewed in Burton on Trent because Sharps brewery were bought out by Coors.

Just a ploy to use the icon !

SteveastroUk

Re: Concerning Trademarks

In Europe, Pyrex IS still borosilicate - its made by St Gobain.

david 12 Bronze badge

Re: Property is theft

>This article conflates and confuses 3 entirely separate property rights which have nothing to do with each other,<

It's worse than that, because the 3 legislative property rights have been stretched out of all shape to cover new ideas like software and interface design and biomedical research: stuff that doesn't comfortably sit in the old categories at all.

Done, as far as I can observe, mostly to force the new developments into the framework of international treaty protection, not because the new IP fitted the old legislation in any logical or just way.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

I find it hard to shed a tear for big pharma after what they pulled in Africa over generic AIDS treatments.

Millions died to protect their massive profits in the west. **** them.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Analogous to nature, really ?

As living beings are the result of innovations and changes over the years, so are "inventions".

I refuse to believe that prior to Mr. Bayliss *innovation* there wasn't someone somewhere who played around with clockwork and tried the *idea* of a wind up radio ...

Rinse and repeat backwards.

As Newton famously said, "If I see farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants..."

At what point does the idea became a plan become a thing become a thing that can be sold ????

Graham 32

Re: Analogous to nature, really ?

The best ideas always seem obvious afterwards.

CertMan

Re: Analogous to nature, really ?

For Craft, Design and Technology 'O' Level 1982 I made a wind-up radio - circuit board, vacuum formed plastic case and everything. It was the clockwork generator was that was new in the Trevor Bayliss design.

Eponymous Howard

Re: Analogous to nature, really ?

>>>I refuse to believe that prior to Mr. Bayliss *innovation* there wasn't someone somewhere who >>>played around with clockwork and tried the *idea* of a wind up radio ...

Not the point - patents are about methods, not ideas.

Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
Holmes

Money wins

T'was ever thus.

This post has been deleted by its author

Adrian 4 Silver badge

Patents

I would have more sympathy for the patent system if it was usable from both sides.

It should be simple to register a patent and defend it successfully against infringement.

It should be simple to determine whether an invention infringes an existing patent.

At present, I think it's weighted toward defence - although that can still be costly. But I don't think it adequately allows for searching, and can be abused to make it specifically difficult to find a relevant existing patent.

Mr Gullible

Sorry, Trevor

Whilst Trevor Baylis' wind up radio did wonders for people in Africa being able to listen to the radio, I would question whether the actual 'wind-up' design deserved a patent.

As I recall, one of the conditions of being granted a patent is along the lines of the design should be sufficiently unique and of sufficient ingenuity that it would not be an obvious solution to someone involved in the relevant discipline - in this case, electronic engineering. Attaching a clockwork (not original) dynamo (not original) to an existing device in order to power it is neither.

If he re-designed the radio circuitry to be considerably lower power than what was available at the time (I seem to remember this may possibly have been the case), then that could be considered to be of sufficient ingenuity for a patent and a completely different matter, but not for sticking a clock mechanism with a dynamo in the battery compartment.

The 'clockwork radio' concept was clever in that it identified a market for a product that everyone else seemed to have overlooked and Mr Baylis deserves credit for that, but that's not what patents are for.

I'm too lazy to look at the patent application, but those shouting that the actual 'wind-up' part was genius and deserved a patent seem to fit into the current american model of applying (and often getting) patents for mundane and obvious solutions, which is becoming a major problem for those wishing to truly innovate these days.

BTW, I take it all those giving examples of the open source community being a shining example of why we should abandon patents and evil capitalism will be refusing their salary at the end of the month and won't mind when there are no medicines to treat them when they get alzheimers or parkinson's or various cancers in later life. There are serious problems with the patent system, but the principal of people or organizations getting a return on their investment (or even, shock horror, making a profit) is a morally just one.

nick turner

Re: Sorry, Trevor

Trevor never really represented the case properly. From what I remember it wasn't IP infringement. Trevor didn't many any money because they switched from using the springs to using batteries in the wind up radios and therefore weren't using his modifications as wind up radios had been around forever (if the historical documentary 'Allo 'Allo is anything to go by.)

Eponymous Howard

Re: Sorry, Trevor

>>>I would question whether the actual 'wind-up' design deserved a patent.

He didn't patent the idea of wind-up radio, he patented a method which he invested a lot of time and money perfecting it so that it gave enough power for (iirc) 45 mins or so.

Then, rather than spend money coming up with their own method, large companies copied his.

John Brown (no body) Silver badge

Re: Sorry, Trevor

"I'm too lazy to look at the patent application,"

...but if you had, you'd have saved so much time typing out your errors based on what you thought rather than what is fact.

Pat Att

Re: Sorry, Trevor

If you've ever tried to get a US patent you will know they don't just grant any old thing They go through an examination process, and often reject applications based upon their flawed understanding of the prior art. Of course they occasionally let through things that shouldn't be granted, but this is not commonplace - it's just more noticeable when it happens.

Gordon 10 Silver badge
Stop

How exactly

Does all the new patent and design rights legislation address Trevors chief complaint - from the linked article?

"“How do you find people who copied an idea if they’re in the middle of China or Timbuktu?”

Stork Bronze badge

Big Pharma

They have a real problem, as their pipeline of new drugs is drying up.

My wife was in biotech, and the problem is that it is horrendously expensive to develop a new drug. With the limits of patent validity it means that the companies in reality have about 10 years to recover the investment (+ the cost of all this that went nowhere). It is also the reason no-one wants to find treatments for diseases that only affect a few or mainly poor people.

If you remove patents no sensible company would do any drug development, as others could copy from day 1. If this is good or bad I let you consider. My wife's company changed from drugs to food additives - it is much simpler to show that your stuff is harmless than to prove it is better that what is already there.

Arthur the cat Silver badge

Re: Big Pharma

the problem is that it is horrendously expensive to develop a new drug.

Whereas I totally agree with you about this (I have a niece in the business), I'd be far more sympathetic to Big Pharma if they didn't spend 2/3rds of their budget on advertising, mainly about drugs for first world problems like restless legs and hair loss.

DavCrav Silver badge

Re: Big Pharma

"Whereas I totally agree with you about this (I have a niece in the business), I'd be far more sympathetic to Big Pharma if they didn't spend 2/3rds of their budget on advertising, mainly about drugs for first world problems like restless legs and hair loss."

Citation needed.

Here's proof that GlaxoSmithKline spends a lot more on R&D than advertising:

Advertising spending: £1.35bn.

R&D spending: £4.48bn.

Looks to me that they spend three times as much on R&D as advertising. And of course their total expenditure is about £25bn, so it's closer to 1/20th, not 2/3rds.

Tim Soldiers

Ok all you clever devils

If I buy a cheap petrol generator around 650w. How heavy would the CV sping need to be to run it for about 30mins ?. Thinking of hanging the spring on the side of my house, probably behind a false wall

John Brown (no body) Silver badge

"If I buy a cheap petrol generator around 650w. How heavy would the CV sping need to be to run it for about 30mins ?. Thinking of hanging the spring on the side of my house, probably behind a false wall"

Every time you change, move or store energy there are losses. Why not just use the generator directly and keep the stored energy in the petrol until needed?

John Savard Silver badge

Edwin Armstrong

Of course, the most famous and egregious case of this almost has to be Edwin Armstrong's patent on the superheterodyne radio.

Mage Silver badge

Re: Edwin Armstrong

Actually the Superhet was a French invention, and based on mathematics anyway. There is argument that Superhetrodyne and FM should not have been patentable as they are ultimately mathematical ideas. RCA should never have had either patent.

Patents, especially in the USA since the Victorian era, favour big corporations as they can afford a team creating them and lawyers to defend them. They are pretty useless to individuals unless they can quickly sell to a corporation. The USA USPTO is totally broken as they are uninterested in properly searching prior art, novelty, unobvious to those skilled in the art etc as they get more money from approvals than rejection. Their system is built round the idea of the Patent later being tested in Court. Obviously the Richer and US native company will win.

Copyright isn't as tricky but can be bypassed as you can't protect the idea. Again the main problem is big corporations. Google will assume works are orphaned or Public Domain unless a massive Corporation threatens them. They and Wikipedia only care about their OWN content. Hollywood, photo libraries, etc wants to extend forever and claim small guys infringe when they don't. DRM is contrary to the concept of Copyright. It should be illegal.

A good design patent / Registered design is a special sort of copyright. Again it favours the big company, but even there they need a unique shape (coca-cola bottle), or a mis-spelled word (Lyft) or made up word (Kleenex), or a custom design of logo / font face.

The solution isn't abolishing IP, but reforming the system.

John Brown (no body) Silver badge

Re: Edwin Armstrong

"A good design patent / Registered design is a special sort of copyright. Again it favours the big company, but even there they need a unique shape (coca-cola bottle), or a mis-spelled word (Lyft) or made up word (Kleenex), or a custom design of logo / font face."

Or just a colour.

michael50

The money isn't really made from the idea. It's made from selling products.

Bayliss couldn't do that and thus failed to make money.

You don't need to be smart to do it either. Look at Alan Sugar, he's made lots of money selling things and he's as dumb as a doorpost and couldn't invent anything.

Sorry, but if you want to draw something on a few sheets of paper and expect to dine out on it for the rest of your life then you're delusional. You've done the easy part.

strum Silver badge

>Sorry, but if you want to draw something on a few sheets of paper and expect to dine out on it for the rest of your life then you're delusional.

...or Paul McCartney.

david 12 Bronze badge

warning, Excel docs

Fun fact: the EPO website (English version) describes the files as XLS, but links to XLSX files.

Pat Att

Innacurate article...

There are several problems with this article. I'll point out one. There are no criminal sanctions for patent infringement. Bayliss wanted that, but didn't get it. It would be a disaster if it did come in too. He managed to get criminal sanctions for infringement of registered designs though, which is also a complete shambles.

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