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Time to criminalise patent infringments

Written by Michael Coyle on 03 September 2009

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It was reported this week in the BBC that Trevor Baylis, serial inventor (one of his successes was the wind-up radio), wrote to Peter Mandleson the business secretary urging him to criminalise patent infringement.

Baylis told the BBC "If I was to nick your car, which is worth 10,000, say, I could go to jail, but if I were to nick your patent, which is worth a million pounds, you would have to sue me. And if I was a colossal company, or indeed another country, that had stolen your invention, how could you find a million pounds a day to take me to court?"

Baylis continued "I believe that theft of intellectual property rights should be treated as a white collar crime, [and] I believe that UK plc should stand behind those courageous individuals whose ideas can change all our lives both commercially and socially".

Costs are a common complaint in patent litigation. While not underestimating the expenses involved, patent does not have to costs the hundreds of thousands of pounds/millions that the large city firms charge. You could also consider insurance protection - pre event is preferable. Making infringement a criminal offence is in my view too over the top.

In many circumstances there is a defence of the patent not being new or that the invention claimed is obvious. Burdening the police with claims of "my patent has been infringed" would not help.

Baylis continued "I believe that theft of intellectual property rights should be treated as a white collar crime, [and] I believe that UK plc should stand behind those courageous individuals whose ideas can change all our lives both commercially and socially".

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