Friday, 26 August 2011

Alternative dispute resolution: sending in the heavies

"My First Half Century in IP", posted yesterday by Brookes Batchellor's Nick Dougan, celebrates Roy Prentice's (first) 50 years in practice as a patent and trade mark attorney.  This article contains a couple of paragraphs that might interest or amuse anyone who is disenchanted with the traditional judicial means of resolving patent infringement disputes:
This diving suit also
provides some protection
against the "heavies"
"Unusual methods of patent enforcement 
One of my clients was involved in the design and manufacture of diving suits and equipment. He devised a lifejacket for use by divers for which we got a patent. He then devised a modification without telling me and started selling the modification. One day, I got a frantic phone call from my client. Two heavies had arrived at his premises and told him that he was infringing a patent and that unless he stopped immediately they would “sort him out”. My client wanted to know what he should do. I told him that the usual method was for the patentee to inform an alleged infringer of the existence of the patent and give him time to consider his position and reply. My client said that he did not think that this would work in this case and that he was going to tell the heavies that he would stop immediately. However, he would like to know if I thought he infringed the patent. He was also going to look into the matter of police protection. I got hold of the patent specification and checked that the patent was in force and then advised my client that I did not think that there was any infringement. 
This happened while my secretary was on holiday and I had a temp. She took a keen interest in this case, which was unusual for a temp, and I asked her why. She said that she was a foster mother to the patentee’s child and that the patentee was currently serving a sentence for grievous bodily harm in Lewes Prison (left). It seemed that, in spite of being in prison, he was still able to pay renewal fees and enforce his patent! Of course, I had to dismiss the temp immediately in case she passed on confidential information to the patentee. My client took the better part of valour and in spite of the fact that he did not infringe, he stopped selling the offending product. Thus, the patentee’s methods were very effective but, of course, illegal. I do not suppose that bothers a violent criminal".

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