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america invents act, IP, Patent

Glimpse Of America’s Future From Across The Pond – Are UK ‘SME’ Patents Worth More As Heating Fuel?

An interesting story today from The Telegraph introduces inventor and small business owner Michael Wilcox.  After spending £150,000 to develop his printing technology, Wilcox burned his patent in protest, expressing his frustration over failed attempts to negotiate license agreements with larger companies in the industry.  Wilcox told the paper that, because companies no longer feared consequences of using his patented technology without authorization, they lacked motivation to even discuss what a fair royalty would be.

Technology broker Kim Howat paints a pessimistic picture for small and mid-size businesses in the UK, saying:

Patenting without a realistic threat of prosecution is a toothless tiger.  I have come to the view that the only reason an SME should seek a patent is to create something that can be traded – hopefully to an entity who can afford to sue those who infringe it – unless the SME has deep pockets and limitless stamina.

In other words, patents are worthless in the hands of inventors, startups and other small companies who originally invested in the technology.  To be of any use, the SME is forced to give them up, necessarily sacrificing some of the value to incentivize the acquirer.  While this may be the state of things in the UK today, recall that the changes introduced by the America Invents Act–limiting patent owner options for venue and case management, introducing new USPTO procedures to delay issuance and enforcement of patents, and expanding the prior user defense to allow companies to keep technology secret while still evading patent liability–attempts to shift power away from patent owners, in favor of large operators accused of utilizing patented technology of others.

In other words, the interests promoting AIA want to create the exact environment that UK small businesses are already facing. This only increases the role of patent licensing specialists, who could be one of the trading partners Howat refers to above.  Meanwhile, Wilcox explains the practical effect of his experiences, saying that remaining innovations in his pipeline will soon be scrapped:

I have four to five other projects but they will just go in the bin. There is no way I am spending any more money on them when I know they will just be taken.

But those pro-AIA interests want you to believe that patent licensing entities, rather than themselves, who are stifling innovation.  Read the full article: Inventor fury as patents prove too costly to defend.



5 thoughts on “Glimpse Of America’s Future From Across The Pond – Are UK ‘SME’ Patents Worth More As Heating Fuel?

  1. “Inventor fury as patents prove too costly to defend.”

    Absolutely. In fact, they are rapidly becoming too expensive and unreliable to obtain. The PTO and Congress seem bent on destroying small entities. Why bother to file. We’ll only develop that which we can protect by trade secret. Those we cant we’ll take with us to our graves -the PTO and Congress be damned.

    “America Invents Act”

    “This is not a patent reform bill” Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) complained, despite other democrats praising the overhaul. “This is a big corporation patent giveaway that tramples on the right of small inventors.”

    Senator Cantwell is right. Just because they call it “reform” doesn’t mean it is. The agents of banks, huge multinationals, and China are at it again trying to brain wash and bankrupt America.

    They should have called the bill the America STOPS Inventing Act or ASIA, because that’s where it is sending all our jobs.

    The patent bill is nothing less than another monumental federal giveaway for banks, huge multinationals, and China and an off shoring job killing nightmare for America. Even the leading patent expert in China has stated the bill will help them steal our inventions. Who are the supporters of this bill working for??

    Patent reform is a fraud on America. This bill will not do what they claim it will. What it will do is help large multinational corporations and maintain their monopolies by robbing and destroying their small entity and startup competitors (so it will do exactly what the large multinationals paid for) and with them the jobs they would have created. The bill will make it harder and more expensive for small firms to get and enforce their patents. Without patents we cant get funded. In this way large firms are able to play king of the hill and keep their small competitors from reaching the top as they have. Yet small entities create the lion’s share of new jobs. According to recent studies by the Kauffman Foundation and economists at the U.S. Census Bureau, “startups aren’t everything when it comes to job growth. They’re the only thing.” This bill is a wholesale destroyer of US jobs. Those wishing to help fight this bill should contact us as below.

    Small entities and inventors have been given far too little voice on this bill when one considers that they rely far more heavily on the patent system than do large firms who can control their markets by their size alone. The smaller the firm, the more they rely on patents -especially startups and individual inventors. Congress tinkering with patent law while gagging inventors is like a surgeon operating before examining the patient.

    Those wishing to help fight big business giveaways should contact us as below and join the fight as we are building a network of inventors and other stakeholders to lobby Congress to restore property rights for all patent owners -large and small.

    Please see http://truereform.piausa.org/default.html for a different/opposing view on patent reform.

    Posted by staff | March 9, 2012, 7:49 am
  2. Michael Wilcox well done, at last someone voices ( and gets a reasonable audience) his objection to the obstacles that deter inventors and entrepreneurs from developing technology which creates successful new business and employment. Our business is successful because we did not patent and disclose our chemistry, however we are $2m into the launch process as that is how long it has taken us to bypass a licensing deal and to find true partners with whom we can develop sales without fear of being “stolen”. Theft is what it is, theft is criminal, yet it is considered to be a commercial infringement rather than unlawful. I had to pay a cosmetic company from London, but based in NY, £20k to stop them from challenging my patent and to allow them to break my patent. The alternative, they said, was that they would break me and take my home. Patents are only useful if you have a big gun, and that’s the big companies. Only companies like Dow Chemicals respect patents and inventors, look at past history, choose a commonly like Dow and they will defend you as its in their best interests. Michael, it is still a disgrace, and I hope you can win something back. TR IRELAND

    Posted by Tim rogers | March 10, 2012, 2:42 pm
  3. Sad but true, and coming soon to America.

    I’m a writer in Washington, DC. Over the years I’ve sometimes looked in on the relationship between patent proposals and innovation, particularly innovation from smaller entities. In the day late and a dollar short category, an essay I wrote for the IBA’s October, 2011 issue of “Global Insight”, after America’s patent “reform” passed, can be seen at http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=557B2AFA-AB58-4BDF-93B0-B956274D2F95

    Better luck to Mr. Wilcox.

    Posted by Skip Kaltenheuser | March 14, 2012, 3:34 pm


  1. Pingback: How Startups Should Plan For Patent Enforcement Costs « Gametime IP - March 12, 2012

  2. Pingback: UK Inventor Burns Patent He Can’t Afford to Use | IP CloseUp - March 19, 2012

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