Channel 4’s Dragons Den has a high profile and is compulsive viewing. At least for me anyway, as I’m a sucker for good inventions. One thing that always somewhat startles me when I watch the programme is the panel’s attitude, disregard and apparent ignorance of intellectual property or more particularly patent law and practice.
If I were in their position one thing I would be very keen to see when shown a gizmo, that I am being told has the potential to change the world, would be a patent, or at least an application. I would want to see how well and broad the claims are drafted, skim the specification, glance at the figures. Ideally I would want to do a quick search or see the results of the search and preliminary examination.
If a good patent is in place or likely and the claim covers the gizmo I’m presented with, I would likely have only one question to ponder… is it any good? But we’re all different, and perhaps three men and a lady sat in front of monitors searching prior art databases would not make very good viewing.
But the dragons (James Caan and Duncan Bannatyne) who invested £150,000 in a plastic cable tie invention spent their money on an unlawful product according to the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO). Doh!
The cable tie called Rapstrap received major publicity in the UK as it was the most successful Dragons Den product in the history of the program. Millepede requested a UK IPO opinion on whether the Rapstrap infringed their patent.
According to Millepede’s website the Rapstrap secured a £36m order from a major distributor and the creator of the Rapstrap apparently was an ex-employee of Millepede.