28 December 2005

NIPC Radio: First Experimental Programme

In my effort to bring English intellectual property law closer to the good inventors of Huddersfield and the rest of the world I've experimented with web broadcasts. I made my first one this evening on the topic "What is IP?" Tomorrow evening I plan to have a brief introduction to branding. As I get more familiar with the software the talks will be longer and more detailed. I'd appreciate feedback.

27 December 2005

Should You apply for a Patent for Your Invention?

Many inventors regard it as a "given" that they should apply for a patent for a new invention. There are certainly many inventions for which patent protection is indispensable. But there are also a great many more for which it is irrelevant. As Peter Bissell and Graham Barker point out in the Business of Invention, only a very small proportion of patented inventions cover their costs let alone make money. The cost of patenting, as I pointed out on a few days ago, is massive. As I have said here and elsewhere, the cost of enforcement is even greater.

In my article, "Should you apply for a Patent for Your Invention" I suggest some criteria for deciding whether or not to apply for a patent for an invention. If you do decide you need a patent, I have linked to two other articles, "Tips for Inventors" and "Applying for Patents" to guide you further.

25 December 2005

Tips for Inventors Coming Together

Tips for Inventors which I started in October now has a home page. It will soon have a lot of other resources gathered around it to make it a first port of call for inventors. Links to all the previous tips are up there so you don't even have to do a search if you want to see them.

Also, anyone in Yorkshire or Lancashire who wants to attend one of the local inventors clubs', a patent clinic, workshop or seminar now has an "Events" page to consult. We have linked this page to a lot of other local and some national organizations providing events on IP and technology likely to be of interest to inventors.

24 December 2005

Confidential Information: Bringing it all together

I have just updated and uploaded an article entitled "Can you keep a Secret?" that my wife first wrote some years ago on managing confidential information. It is written specifically for SME and individual inventors but others could also learn from it.

It contains two precedents actioned by a mouseover on the green text
- a non-disclosure agreement; and
- a disclosure log.
It also links to articles that I have written on this blog on "confidential information" and elsewhere on protecting trade secrets overseas as well as to a very good short booklet that you can download from the Patent Office on non-disclosure agreements and Trevor Baylis Brands Plc's inventors' packs.

More will follow soon.

23 December 2005

Cost of Patents: EPO Report tells us what most of us already knew

The European Patent Office has just published a Study on the Cost of Patenting by Roland Berger Market Research. In its Introduction the EPO confirmed what many of us had already suspected, namely that the cost of patenting in Europe is far higher than in the USA or Japan and far higher than most small and medium enterprises let alone individual inventors can afford.

As the cost varies according to the complexity of the technology, the number of designated countries, translations and other factors, the survey took as its paradigm a specification consisting of 11 pages of description with 10 claims spread over 3 pages. The cost of obtaining such a patent was €30,530 in Europe (as of 23 Dec 2005 £20,861.15) compared to €10,250 (£7,004.85 for a comparable US patent granted to a US company - British applicants would have to pay £16,469.94 which is still less than they have to pay for protection in their own market) and €5,460 (£3,731.36) that a Japanese company would have to pay for a patent in Japan.

The costs in Europe are made up as follows:

- pre-filing expenditure excluding R&D (€6,240),
- internal cost of processing (€3,070),
- attorney (patent agents') fees (€4,930),
- translation of application and claims (€3,020),
- official EPO fees (€3,410),
- validation (€9,870).

This does not even begin to take account of enforcement which is the major cost and far higher in the UK and the rest of Europe. As I have previously reported in my other blog, Gordon Brown has commissioned Andrew Gowers to review the UK’s intellectual property framework and to report to the Chancellor, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport by Autumn 2006 (see Gordon Bennett (or should that read "Brown"?) - Gowers Review of Intellectual Property). If he or the rest of his government is concerned about why the UK is lagging further and further behind its European and American competitors and even further behind its North Asian ones he should look at this report and think on.

Happy Christmas everyone.

10 December 2005

Inventors - the World does not owe you a Living

Last Tuesday, several of the inventors and their supporters who had formed the Manchester Inventors Group met in Manchester Central Library to discuss the future of the Group. The acting chair, Stephen Mansfield, asked each person present why he or she had come to the meeting and what he or she wanted from the group.

Almost without exception the replies were advice and guidance and financial and practical support. There were one or two long and sorry tales of frustration and disappointment. All sorts of people were blamed for those failures including professionals, venture capitalists and the government. One person opined that inventors should be free to invent and that others ought to be concerned with commercialization. A few suggested a political approach such as inviting the deputy prime minister to Manchester so that he could learn of their needs first hand.

To the man who said that inventors ought to be left to invent and that others ought to be allowed to commercialize their inventions, I observed that that was the way in which industry works. Most successful inventions are actually made by bright young men and women with advanced degrees who are recruited from the best universities around the world. Others in their companies or universities apply for patents for their inventions and commercialize their work. These young scientists, engineers and technologists are paid reasonably well for their services - though usually not as well as the accountants, marketers and managers who commercialize their work - but that does not matter. They do what they like doing best which is to work on the frontiers of their science. It is possible for an independent inventor like Lemelson or a Dyson to do very well but it is a lot easier for an inventor like Sternbach who developed 241 new inventions for his employer.

The purpose of a patent is to confer a temporary competitive advantage upon a manufacturer as a reward for showing the world have to make how to make a new product or process. It is not intended to be certificate of attainment or honour like a degree or knighthood but a commercial advantage. It is very much a product of the modern capitalist system. Patents and trade marks did not exist for much of the history of the Soviet Union. There was no need for them when everything was made and marketed by the state.

Where there is demand for a patented product or goods produced by a patented process and the supplier of those goods has the means to enforce them, the rights conferred by a patent can be exceedingly valuable. Absent such demand and such means, a patent is otiose.

The lesson for inventors is to think less about the invention and more about the market. Is there an unfulfilled demand? Can I fill it? Can my solution be protected by law and if so how? How can I resource such protection? One of the reasons why I have set up groups like the Huddersfield IP Forum and assist groups like the Manchester and Leeds inventors is to put that message across. It is an important message and if taken to heart it will reduce considerably the bitterness of many talented and otherwise reasonable people.