« PreviousContinue »
A minority only of the patents taken out under any circumstances are sound at law; and many even of these have nothing like their apparent value, from being hedged round by others with conflicting claims.
Yet, almost smothered under this enormous load of worthless patents, there are numbers continually brought out by poor and obscure men, any of which, taken up by a capitalist on the very liberal terms usually offered, would, properly worked, form a very handsome addition to even a princely income. It is well worth the consideration of those who are continually investing in foreign loans, mines, railways, etc., whether it would not pay them vastly better to take some poor but clever inventor by the hand, and, while thus encouraging trades and manufactures at home, employ their capital where it is constantly under their immediate inspection and control. Whether for safe and good paying investments, or for really brilliant speculations, there is probably no field left the capitalist to be at all compared in richness with that of carrying out patented inventions.
HOW TO SAFELY INVEST IN PATENTS.
Probably far more money is made by non-inventors investing in patents than by patentees. The Author has known many instances of men without any inventive faculty making fortunes in a very few years by investing in patents. This is not so often done by paying largely for a single promising patent and then working it, as by spreading their investments over several ventures—finding capital and business talent for clever but needy, or unbusiness-like, inventors, demonstrating the success of the inventions, and then negotiating their sale, receiving as a recompense a share of the net returns, varying from 25
tó 75 per cent. One
very successful plan is to find a patentee with a very valuable invention, whose entire resources are utilised in working the patent in the country of its birth. The capitalist offers to patent it abroad and negotiate the sale, giving the inventor from 25 to 50 per cent. of the net returns. As a rule he jumps at the offer.
We have very frequently known the foreign patents of inventions worth many thousands of pounds per annum in the country of their birth almost given away. It is this international patent dealing that is, as a rule, the most profitable ; yet it is a field almost untilled. As the Author's firm has, with possibly one exception, the largest American and foreign connection of any in this country, he has unbounded opportunities of seeing the great opening there is in this line. His firm receives from abroad to patent in this country and the Continent several hundreds of valuable inventions per annum. In many of these cases the inventions can be obtained--some as soon as they are protected, others when the inventor gets tired of holding them—for a tithe of their value, their owners not having the leisure to work them themselves in other countries than their own. This is the case also with British inventions abroad.
Again, for every invention really valuable in the country of its birth that is patented abroad, twenty are taken out in one country only, and for this reason: the inventors know the difficulty of their selling their foreign patents and attending to their home ones at the same time. But if they could hear through their Patent Agents of individuals or syndicates willing and able to take up or dispose of patents in other countries, they would either patent abroad or sell their foreign rights at very reasonable rates, to the advantageous development of trade all over the world.
Syndicates are mentioned above. For small capitalists, or men not having the leisure to work or negotiate the sale of patents, but with money to invest in them, the joining of a syndicate to engage in this traffic is frequently a very good thing. These syndicates, if properly managed, are very lucrative affairs. We do not mean to say they are usually successful in all their ventures—the cleverest of them fail in doing any good with some of their venturesbut if the risks are small, taken with due professional advice, and spread over a considerable number of patents (not all their eggs put in one basket), they are almost certain of a most lucrative business. The Author and his firm make it a point of business to keep themselves acquainted with the character and antecedents of all companies or syndicates professing to deal in patents, and can generally assist inventors materially. Another way in which patent speculators have succeeded, especially in America, is to buy up or obtain a large interest in one or more patents, and, instead of selling them out and out in lump sums, to go round the country or engage smaller men to travel on commission, selling "shop-rights” and territorial rights—that is, the right of working the invention in a given manufactory only, or the exclusive rights to work the invention in a given town, city, country, or district.
A useful practice of some of these syndicates confining themselves to one branch of trade, is to order of a Patent Agent copies of all the British, American, German, and other printed specifications on their particular subject. These can be obtained, when all of one particular class are ordered, in the case of British specifications, at one shilling each ; Americans at sixpence each ; and German, three shillings each, including agent's charge for picking out and ordering them; and will be found invaluable in investigating
into the validity and value of patents, and also as a prompt introduction to new inventions that it may be valuable for them to negotiate for.
Many of the most thriving and progressive manufacturing firms in this country and in the United States also adopt this plan, with very great advantage to their business, and we have rarely known a client who has once adopted it ever give it up again--they find it too valuable.
It is a remarkable fact, too, that nearly all the great industrial houses in this country, on the Continent, and even in America, attribute their success to the taking up of some one or more patents; and probably not in one instance in three were any of the partners in the firm the original patentees, but were only the purchasers of the patents thus worked. They purchased or licensed them, often at a very small cost, from the original patentees.
We are always glad to assist investors in obtaining good patents, as by so doing we can benefit not merely the investor, but the client also who has employed us to secure the invention. In investing in a patent, however, great caution is requisite. First of all, the question of its validity should be thoroughly gone into; secondly, the patent records should be searched and full inquiry made, to ascertain whether the invention be really the best device for the purpose, and not covered by prior patents.
REGISTRATION OF DESIGNS.
Any person, the proprietor of a design not previously published in the United Kingdom, can protect the same by registration for five years. Any design applicable to any article of manufacture, or to any substance natural or artificial, or partly natural and partly artificial, whether the novelty be in the general shape or pattern, or the ornamentation (or two or all of these), and whether it be formed by printing, painting, embroidery, weaving, sewing, modelling, casting, engraving, or otherwise, can be thus protected. Sculpture is, however, protected without registration under the Sculpture Copyright Act, 1814. The Comptroller has the power of refusing to register a design, subject to appeal to the Board of Trade, and where a principle of mechanics is sought to be protected under the designs registration, he is very apt to refuse registration. With every registration a special number is given to the proprietor, and he is bound to mark all articles made in accordance with the registered design with the word “
“Rd.” or Regd.” and said number, or, if the nature of the article forbids such marking, then he must mark the package—and if he does not do so the copyright of the design ceases, unless he shows that he took all proper steps to ensure the marking of the article. During its five years of copyright, the registered design is not open to inspection of the public-except by special order (in each specific case) from the proprietor of the design, or from the Comptroller, or from a court of law; but after the expiration of the five years it can be inspected at the Patent Office, and copies made for a prescribed fee. If, however, any one during the period of copyright wishes to know whether a particular design has been registered under a given number for a given class of goods, or by a given person at a given day, he can obtain this information for a prescribed fee. If a registered design be used in any foreign country, and is not used in this country within six months of the date of registration, the copyright in the design ceases. A register of proprietors of designs is kept at the Patent Office, and all assignments, changes of address, or licenses can be recorded therein for a prescribed fee —such registration is primâ facie evidence of owner