Saturday 21 February 2015

Commercialising an innovation - BBC on the Inventors

One of the UK’s British Broadcasting Services eclectric programmes is Radio 4’s The Bottom Line, presented by Evan Davies, which is a business discussion programme. This week’s episode, which can be found here, was dedicated to  inventors and included an interview with Mandy Harbermann, who is best known as the inventor of a non-spill Anywayup baby cup (which this author knows from personal experience is valuable for man new parents). Mandy acknowledged how the current patent system was key to licensing and commercialising her intellectual property. She did not have the resources to bring the product to market herself, and had to face a copy-cat product produced by another company to whom she had shown the designs. She won the infringement action in the British High Court as Paul Cole discusses here. Mandy has been quite a supporter of strengthening the IP system as she has seen it to be vital to her, as a sole inventor, in commercialising a product.

One of her other guests on the programme unfortunately seemed to be advocating the filing of design rights (as they are cheaper) than patents. He was very critical of the „IP industry“, as he called it. 

There was also a highly pertinent comment from someone that too many inventors assume that they have „patented product“ but in fact the patent only covers one aspect of the product. This latter point seems to be a common misconception of many small inventors - and sometimes they do not seem to be well served by their advisors who fail to point out that it’s rare that a patent can cover all of the innovative features in a product and that an inventor should focus on one or two key points. Indeed any patent covering all of the features is likely to have such a narrow focus that a copycat product is easy to produce merely by minor design alterations.

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