14 January 2009

A Very Sad Tale Indeed: Forrester Ketley & Co v Brent

In Forrester Ketley & Co v Brent [2008] EWHC 3150 (Ch) (19 Dec 2008) Mr. Justice Morgan had to deal with no less than 53 applications for permission to litigate in all sorts of matters including petitions for his bankruptcy and charging orders over his home. 

The reason the applicant needed permission to litigate is that he had been subject to a series of civil restraint orders that required him to apply for permission to the court before going to law. Those orders had been imposed because he had attempted in previous proceedings to join the Crown, the Department for Constitutional Affairs (as the Ministry of Justice was then called), the Lord Chancellor, various judges, and the entire partnership of his opponent's solicitors and had embarked on satellite litigation seeking criminal sanctions against the High Court, the Court of Appeal, various members of the Court of Appeal, and the Health and Safety Executive. He had also tried to sue the UK government, the other side's solicitors and PAMIA in the European Court of Human Rights. All this derived from a claim in 1994 for fees of £4,400 by a firm of patent attorneys and a counterclaim of £5,000 for alleged overpayment and negligence which spawned 100 pages of pleadings by the time it was struck out by the Patents Court in 2003.

This exceedingly sad case would seem incredible to most folk but it is sadly believable to anyone who has ever worked with private inventors. The brilliance of the bright idea and the lure of riches beyond the dreams of Croesus beguile to the extent that some become obsessed with their invention and a few even unhinged. Charles Dickens knew of this tendency and wrote about it in his novels and short stories.  The conditions seems to begin with unfounded optimism: "I've checked round B & Q and can find nothing like it on their shelves" or "sales of trundle humpers amounted to umpteen billion pounds last year and I only have to sell 1% to make so many millions."

In the first few pages of "A Better Mousetrap, The Business of Invention"  Peter Bissell and Graham Barker warn that the vast majority of patents are never worked, that most of those that are do little more than cover their costs and only a tiny percentage of the rest ever make serious money.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sadly I share your experience from when I had that type of practice. The worst I saw was a solar bike light. It had no capacitor and only worked during strong daylight. The inventor had been to business agencies and all sorts of people who had told him it was brilliant, there was nothing like it on the market etc. He was dumbfounded when I pointed out the obvious flaw!