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Should patent theft be criminalised?

A major British inventor is calling for the criminalisation of theft of intellectual property. What do you think?

Currently a patent-holder who thinks their idea has been stolen must sue through the civil courts, which Trevor Bayliss, inventor of the wind-up radio, says is too costly for lone inventors without corporate backing.

But defenders of the current system say patents can be extremely complex things and the criminal law is simply too blunt an instrument to use when disputes arise.

How should patents be protected? Are you an inventor who has been affected? Should theft of intellectual property be made a criminal offence or is civil protection enough?

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Published: Wednesday, 2 September, 2009, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK

All comments as they come in

Added: Thursday, 3 September, 2009, 08:19 GMT 09:19 UK

The patent system is worthless to inventors, it just makes money for lawyers. I worked with an inventor once, and to protect his designs worldwide would have cost him many thousands of pounds, with no guarantee that someone wouldn't copy them anyway, changing one tiny detail to get round the patent. Apparently, there are companies everywhere that trawl through new patents looking for ideas to copy cheaply.

[Graphis], London, United Kingdom

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Added: Thursday, 3 September, 2009, 08:15 GMT 09:15 UK

There's no such thing as "patent theft" or "copyright theft", the correct term is "infringement". Patents are granted on overbroad subject matter for things which are obvious in all but the legal sense of the word. They are also written in an obscure legal language that only patent lawyers can decipher.

The common form of patent infringement is unintentional and to criminalise it is to criminalise innovation itself.

nodoublethink

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Added: Thursday, 3 September, 2009, 08:14 GMT 09:14 UK

I don't agree with patents at all.

Anon

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Added: Thursday, 3 September, 2009, 08:09 GMT 09:09 UK

Yes commercial patent theft should be criminalised.

The Patent Office experts have already determined each Patent is unique and clearly protectable after exhaustive checks, it is these experts who should provide the evidence for any theft.

Thus the criminal law would NOT be too blunt an instrument to use when disputes arise.

[wvptv-co-uk], Cardiff, United Kingdom

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Added: Thursday, 3 September, 2009, 08:03 GMT 09:03 UK

As a when one acquire knowledge through engaging oneself in a serious thought of well being of others with a new idea in-built and put into a paper, it becomes the property of the one legally who develops it once patented. However, those who distributes ‘free knowledge’ to the general Public through use of any source of communication is also at par even though the thought is not patented to require equal respect and compensation being often it is the only source of income to one to live-on.

Dr MRIDUL MOHAN HAZARIKA PhD, BANGALORE, India

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Added: Thursday, 3 September, 2009, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK

If people like Dyson have to seriously struggle to keep their ideas safe - what chance does a budding inventor or small company have? Who wants to spend thousands of pounds on a patent that does not currently offer any real protection?

I don’t have the money to waste on paying for paper thin protection, or the funds for fighting expensive court battles so yes patent theft should be criminalised. The current system is actually stifling creative growth and is quite frankly an embarrassment.

Lenny, Bridgend

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Added: Thursday, 3 September, 2009, 07:59 GMT 08:59 UK

Big Bang-or Black hole- these are some of the terms used by astronomers to attract public attention for dramatising their work for fame and more money for research? .But it s used by every one these days.Should the astromoners proteced these words only for use in astronomy and only for that particular events of origin of universe or sucking up of stars into the unknown or another universe?

vijay k pillai, UK

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Added: Thursday, 3 September, 2009, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK

I think criminalising patent theft is probably a bad idea.
Lots of the time companies will reach agreements before going to court or will offer some sort of licensing agreement.
The times when it does go to court are usually because a point of law needs clarifying.
There needs to be better legal aid available to small businesses and individuals, but that is true of pretty much ever part of law.
Incidentally I work as a Patent Examiner at the IPO, and I do understand the associated problems.

Colin Walker, Cardiff

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Added: Thursday, 3 September, 2009, 07:44 GMT 08:44 UK

I can't wait until a new space age for humanity when most of us will be able to leave the jurisdictions of all countries and bypass such ludicrous laws as intellectual property, yes ideas that can be reproduced, shared, transmitted without loss to the original so all people will be able to make use of them. It will be a society where we do what is technically possible and not be limited to what is technically allowed.
Military black projects are ahead as they don't give a toss about these laws

Billy, Birmingham

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Added: Thursday, 3 September, 2009, 07:40 GMT 08:40 UK

What's the point! Legal battles be they UK Law or civil are all about money anyway. He with the most, wins!

Robert Geake

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Added: Thursday, 3 September, 2009, 07:14 GMT 08:14 UK

Knowledge is often required to be distributed or else it shall die of its own; often requiring it to pen down when momentarily invades one’s mind as a result of serious thanking on the Subject of one’s interest. Hence when one derives a benefit, the entity required to be adequately compensated being the only wealth possesses by a thinker. In view of extensive use of internet, the doing it otherwise is an open stealing which tantamount to doing of a crime & a worst assault on copy right Law.

Dr MRIDUL MOHAN HAZARIKA PhD, BANGALORE, India

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Added: Thursday, 3 September, 2009, 07:13 GMT 08:13 UK

Try again censor.
No! Patent law is overly broad and stifling of innovation as it is, extending criminal law to encompass so-called "intellectual property" will be even more of a disaster.
There is a very good reason "IP" has traditionally not been set on a par in law with theft: that is because infringement is much more comparable to trespass than larceny, so BBC, please stop encouraging multinationals and patent-trolls to stifle innovation by calling it "theft" when it is no such thing

Colin Campbell, Stockholm, Sweden

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Added: Thursday, 3 September, 2009, 06:13 GMT 07:13 UK

Does anyone rember who actually invented the traffic signal and who patented it? This can answer the query.

Muhammad Saeed, Islamabad, Pakistan

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Added: Thursday, 3 September, 2009, 06:00 GMT 07:00 UK

Best law that money can buy!

James Taylor

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Added: Thursday, 3 September, 2009, 03:49 GMT 04:49 UK

I am an inventor that has had their invention stolen. I invented the Labour Party Red Rose and had Peter Mandelson claim it was his. I am still furious decades later that a person with an IQ of 85 should be allowed to get away with it. I won one court case over the matter and he still boosts his political career with it. Intellectuals need the full force of the law behind them as everyone else relies on us to make the major advances in society.

Andrew Kadir-Buxton

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