Own your inventions – why patents are so important to securing your business success.


When you come up with a good idea it can be hard to keep it to yourself. You want your invention to take the world by storm, but if you haven’t protected your ideas then there is nothing stopping someone else from profiting from your innovation and creativity.

There are some companies that have famously relied on trade secrets. Both Coca-Cola and KFC do take out patents, but have sworn their employees to secrecy over some of their recipes. Sadly these trade secrets have been leaked and we now know that a glass of Coca-Cola contains many ingredients including oil produced from blossom, and that the colonel’s delicious chicken coating recipe includes ginger teamed with mustard and oregano.

The best way to protect your intellectual property can be to get it patented. However, there are a number of inventors who either didn’t get their creations patented, or didn’t protect them adequately.

Here we look at some of the top inventions that weren’t adequately protected, leaving the creators unable to benefit financially from their ideas:

1. Matches were invented by British chemist John Walker. You may think that scraping wood to make fire has been around since the stone age, but he created his Congreve matches in the 1820s. His discovery was a sulphur paste that sparked when it was scraped on a rough surface. However, his design wasn’t perfect and he never wanted to patent them. Someone else did though – matches were finally patented by Samuel Jones, and these were sold as Lucifer’s.

2. Karaoke Machines are the cultural phenomenon that started in the 1970s and look like they aren’t going away. Sadly the inventor, Daisuke Inoue, never profited from them. He was the drummer in a Japanese band and one day someone asked him to record backing tracks, and karaoke was born. Even though Inoue came up with the first coin slot karaoke machine he never patented the idea and it wasn’t long before more sophisticated versions were all over Tokyo.

3. The Computer Mouse was one of those inventions that was ahead of its time. Created by Douglas Engelbart in the 1960s the idea of having a wooden block with wheels under it, which allowed users to select a co-ordinate on the computer screen, was revolutionary. He did patent the idea, but the patent ran out in 1987 before the technology became widely used. Since then, at least one billion computer mice have been sold.

4. The Lightning Rod has helped ensure tall buildings, from churches to skyscrapers, have not been damaged by lightning. However, despite his many inventions the creator, Benjamin Franklin, never held a patent. It was in 1750 that he started his experiments with electricity. He performed a kite experiment, which led to the extraction of sparks from clouds. This made him aware of the immense danger of lightning and he was able to invent the lightning rod.

5. The Fidget Spinner was one of the biggest fads of 2017. The palm-sized spinners consist of a ball bearing, which sits in a three-pronged plastic device and can then be spun round.  It was the biggest schoolyard phenomenon since the yo-yo and it felt like everyone under the age of 18 owned at least one. There is a lot of mystery surrounding the inventor, but one person who stands out is Catherine Hettinger, who held the patent on finger spinners for eight years, she surrendered it in 2005 because she could not afford the $400 (£310) renewal fee.

These are just a handful of the inventors who didn’t adequately protect their intellectual property. One who has changed our lives in a way we could never have imagined is Sir Tim Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web. He didn’t put a patent on it on purpose, as he was determined it would be free for all.

Mark Twain, the literary genius behind The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, once said: “A country without a patent office and good patent laws is just a crab, and can’t travel any way but sideways and backways.”  So, if you want to move your ideas and inventions forward then get in touch with us.