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Monday, 25 June 2007

Inventor wisdom for free

Today's Guardian has a very good (and, for a piece on intellectual property, unusually accurate) article on the new British Library "inventor in residence", Mark Sheahan. Mark, the inventor of "Squeezeopen" (examples right), will be giving free one-on-one advice to inventors at the library's business and IP centre.

One piece of advice Mark has to offer all would-be patentees is to get professional advice. The IPKat, who knows a little about the potential pitfalls of the IP system, inevitably has to agree wholeheartedly. The costs of getting a patent, if your idea really is worth protecting, are often well worth the extra money involved.

Merpel adds: whoever drafted Mark's patent applications (here and here) apparently didn't consider the possibility of the devices being made of anything other than plastic, which is a shame for trying to get those pesky work-arounds as infringements. "Beware of the tin man" indeed.

6 comments:

David said...

This Kat, contrary to what Merpel thinks, is sure that the inventor and/or his professional adviser had good reason to put the limitation to plastics in the claimed invention. However, this does rather estop the inventor from grumbling about any implementations in tin getting round the invention.

Anonymous said...

The second link to the invention is broken. Try:

http://v3.espacenet.com/textdoc?DB=EPODOC&IDX=WO9523743&F=0

David said...

Thanks, anon. Link now fixed.

mark said...

Thank you for your input.
Yes, there was a reason why we decided not to include tin in our claimed invention. I invented this technology to supersede tin. It does not have the same memory as plastic and would fail quickly in use, as it gets squeezed out of shape or dented. Also sealing is much harder to achieve. Additionally, including tin in the patent would have added considerably to the costs. There would of been a lot more prior art to consider, as tin has been around a lot longer than plastic.
I think I am justified in grumbling about the ‘’Tin Man’’, please read my ‘‘Beware the Tin Man’’ story, to see why http://www.squeezeopen.com/tin_man.htm
Mark Sheahan, Inventor in Residence for the British Library

Filemot said...

Nice story Mark and well told- but surely this is the point of the patent system. You make available your ideas to the rest of the world. Its part of the bargain. They choose to try and implement the technology early in another material - its their right to do so. We all seem to be obsessed with concepts of ownership of ideas but ideas are for sharing - why else are you going to these exhibitions. Your visitor didnt want to work with you but he did respect your implementation of the idea and you appear to accept that using plastic and presumably the right plastic is where your inventive contribution lies. If you want to protect visual impression then design registration is the thing as I am sure you are advising the entreprenuers who visit you in the BL.

David said...

As an English judge once said (I forget the case, but it might have been EMI v Lissen), one cannot infringe the equity of a patent. What one has not claimed is actively disclaimed, and is therefore free for others to use. Your story, Mark, about the tin man emphasises this point. Your invention is clearly a good one, but the invention appears to lie, at least in part, in making the container out of a resiliently flexible polymer. The fact that tin (presumably steel or aluminium and not in fact tin) doesn't work as well kind of proves your point. How many tin versions will your competitor be able to sell, compared to your cheaper and better product?

There is also another side to the story, which is that one function of the patent system is to encourage innovation, including encouraging people to work around a patent. Sometimes (although not in this case, it would appear), the better inventions come out of deliberate attempts to avoid infringement.

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