The death of inventor Trevor Baylis saddened many people who had seen him on TV or used one of the numerous products he created.
Baylis was perhaps best known for his wind-up radio which he proudly showed off on BBC’s Tomorrow’s World. He developed it after seeing the difficulty that governments in poorer countries were having in getting health messages across to their citizens in remote areas.
His invention helped millions of people who would otherwise have no access to radio broadcasts.
Baylis was not motivated by money but he was angry at the way some unscrupulous companies sought to profit from his inventions by breaching intellectual property laws to develop similar products.
The experience inspired him to fight for greater protection for original ideas and to encourage other inventors to ensure that they patented their work and took all the necessary legal steps to retain control.
He warned that “there are so many predators out there” and he gave this advice to young inventors who were still developing their ideas: “Anyone wanting to know about your invention must be made to sign a non-disclosure agreement. If they don’t, then don’t show them your product.
“If you are going to show your product to a large company, take a lawyer.”
The advice is just as relevant today as it was 25 years ago when Baylis began his campaign. Indeed, firms are developing new designs and products so quickly that the need for legal protection has never been greater.
The Intellectual Property Office says examples of copyright infringement include cases where someone:
- uses, sells or imports your patented product or process
- uses all or some of your work under copyright without your permission
- makes, offers or sells your registered design for commercial gain
- uses a trademark that’s identical or similar to one you’ve registered.
In these circumstances you can take the following steps:
- get the other party to stop using your IP or come to an agreement with them, for example, by licensing your work
- use mediation or another type of dispute resolution
- take legal action if you can’t resolve the dispute by other means.
The law can be complicated so firms and inventors should always seek professional advice about patents and intellectual property rights.
Certain kinds of material such as writing and literary works, art, photography, films, TV, music, web content, sound recordings etc are automatically protected, although it’s important to be able to prove the date that the work was created.
Most other products will need more formal protection such as by registering the design or trademark, or by applying for a patent.
The Intellectual Property Office advises allowing up to five years for a patent protection to be granted. This would apply to intellectual property such as inventions, products and medicines.
Try not to disclose details of the invention until it is registered. If you need to discuss the idea with potential investors, make sure they sign a non-disclosure agreement.
One product can have numerous different types of protection such as:
- The name and logo as a trademark
- The product’s unique shape as a registered design
- patenting a completely new working part
- using copyright to protect drawings of the product.
The kind of protection selected will depend on the nature of the product. There are several options so make sure to choose the one that one is most appropriate.
Please contact us if you would like more information about copyright, patents and protecting your intellectual property.