Protecting the small people

The idea of the government providing funding to individuals and small companies to foster high tech innovation is a good one. Unfortunately, Scotland, and the EU in general, do not quite get the whole picture. If Prof. Allister Ferguson`s work is successful it will quickly garner that most highly accurate indicator of success--copying.

Feb 1st, 1998

Protecting the small people

Herbert Glum

E-mail: 110327.3024@compuserv.com

I enjoyed reading your column in the December Vision Systems Design (see p. 60).

The idea of the government providing funding to individuals and small companies to foster high tech innovation is a good one. Unfortunately, Scotland, and the EU in general, do not quite get the whole picture. If Prof. Allister Ferguson`s work is successful it will quickly garner that most highly accurate indicator of success--copying.

The only protection the small people have against industrial bullies who steal and copy is intellectual property protection, most commonly patents. Unfortunately, these same bullies have managed through their lobbying efforts to make it virtually impossible for the little guy to obtain patents, let alone enforce them. In the EC, patents are very expensive. They cost even more to maintain once they are issued, and patent infringement litigation against a thief can bankrupt even large companies. At least in the US, attorneys are willing to take a little guy on a contingency, allowing many to obtain patent protection who could not otherwise afford it. I estimate that 80% of patent cases in the USA are brought by little guys against big company infringers, and many of those are funded by contingencies or investors who need the large damage awards provided in the US to make that investment worthwhile.

If Scotland and the rest of the EC wish to foster the development of high technology, they must provide protection for the little guys who they wish to support. The current European intellectual property laws are too costly and too weak. I recomment that contingent fee litigation be enacted, and penalties for infringing patents be increased to the point where even large companies cannot afford to take the risk.

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