The Telegraph reports that British inventor Trevor Baylis, now 75, who created the first wind-up radio, is unfortunately struggling with patent laws in the UK. The eccentric gentleman (Trevor, I mean this as a compliment) cites the lack of government protection for inventors’ rights in Britain; unlike in the US and other countries, where patent theft is considered a criminal offense, in the UK it is merely a civil one. Meanwhile, Bayliss, who has received many honorary degrees for his work, and an OBE from the Prince of Wales, is currently in a bit of a financial struggle.
This is sad. Radio truly owes Trevor Baylis a great debt of gratitude; his invention spawned an era of self-powered technologies such as those we use at Ears To Our World, that have brought life-saving information and lighting to the most rural, remote parts of the world. He has truly made a difference to people’s lives, especially where there’s no reliable access to electricity.
I still keep an original BayGen radio at my house, just like the one Baylis is pictured with above. It’s an amazing invention, indeed–loud, clear, room-filling shortwave audio from a radio that doesn’t require batteries; only a little winding, as simple as winding your wrist watch, delivers this remarkable sound.
The Telegraph tells the evolution of the BayGen radio into the Freeplay radio, and then Bayliss’ loss of revenue as the original patent for the clockwork radio was not honored when Freeplay began using the same mechanism, with a modification, to charge an internal battery. Ironically, Freeplay spawned The Freeplay Foundation, now known as Lifeline Energy, a worthy organization with the goal of helping others. And obviously, Baylis is not financial guru: he did sell his shares in Freeplay and parted ways with the organization over a decade ago.
But to be fair, Baylis is an inventor, not a businessman. I can see his side of the argument: if you wish to build your life around inventing, your creations and intellectual property need to be properly protected. It should not require another degree–or another full time job–simply to protect your ideas. If Baylis’ inventions had been properly guarded, he would probably still be churning out inventions at age 75 instead of fighting to keep his house and to protect other inventors from the same fate. Baylis–and The Telegraph, in turn–are placing the focus on beefing-up the patent laws in the UK to help protect innovations. In Baylis’ case, I believe it may be a lack of international protection that has had an effect on his bottom line.
How can we help Trevor Baylis? We’re determined to find a way. Stay tuned…
Many thanks to Ed Cummings for sending the Telegraph link!