Feeds

Dragons' Den winner infringed own patent, IPO rules

He's out

The Power of One Infographic

A man whose invention caught the attention of millions of television viewers may have infringed a patent he applied for himself ten years ago. A contestant on the Dragons' Den TV programme may have to defend his invention from legal action.

Andrew Harsley appeared on the programme and convinced two of its panellists, Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan, to invest £150,000 in the Rapstrap, a plastic cable tie.

But the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has said that the invention is already partially covered by a patent owned by a company Harsley helped to found. He has since left the firm.

Millepede's patent for the reusable plastic strip lists Harsley as the inventor. Harsley has said that he has since been awarded patents in China and Mexico for his own Rapstrap product.

Harsley left Millepede to set up Rapstrap, but his name is on Millepede's patent for its strips, which was granted in 1999.

Millepede asked the IPO to conduct a full technical review of Harsley's Rapstrap to see if it infringed its patent. The IPO found that the strip did possess characteristics covered by Millepede's patent.

"The Rapstrap cable tie falls within the scope of claims 1 and 5 of the patent," said examiner Steven Morgan.

"I was amazed when Harsley, who had previously founded the Millepede company, forgot to mention Millepede’s existence on the programme," said John Butterworth, managing director of Millepede. "Then afterwards all the parties showed a lack of interest in talking to Millepede about our prior patent. I hope this official review will now change that situation.”

The review is just an opinion and does not grant Millepede any new rights. If it wants to stop Harsley from selling his strips or force him to pay licence fees it will have to do so through the courts.

David Fry of law firm Agile, which advised Harsley, told The Scotsman newspaper: "The opinion will have no bearing whatsoever on an infringement action in front of a court because they will firstly address the issue of validity."

Harsley had won a £35m contract for up to a billion units of his cable ties and the invention was touted as one of the success stories of entrepreneurial challenge programme Dragons' Den.

Millepede sells a variety of ties and rods for securing bags, plants or cables, including Mille-Ties, anchors and cable rings.

See: The IPO's opinion (11-page/449kb pdf)

Copyright © 2009, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.