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Wind-up bloke Baylis winds up broke, turns to UK gov for help

Africa radio man says Brit inventors need more patent protection

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Trevor Baylis, the brains behind the wind-up radio and a shoe-powered phone charger, has called on the UK government to back Blighty's inventors.

And he is reported to be selling his one-bedroom self-designed house on a River Thames island in Twickenham after failing to convert his creations into a mountain of money.

He told The Telegraph that, like most inventors, he was good at coming up with ideas but not particularly brilliant at legally protecting his work, and thus was unable to fend off copycats. A number of companies, mostly overseas, built hand-cranked radios and mobile chargers for phones and MP3 players without paying him a penny.

Baylis wrote to the British government in 2009 to call for patent infringement to be upgraded from a matter for the civil courts to a full-blown criminal offence.

And this week, he told The Telegraph:

I was very foolish. I didn’t protect my product properly and allowed other people to take my product away. It is too easy to rip off other people’s ideas.

You have to take someone to court to stop them, but as a lone inventor, you just can’t afford to do that. If they just change the design slightly, then they can claim they have got around the patent.

The government needs to stand behind the lone inventor. There needs to be better support to help inventors keep their designs and to help them fight against the big boys.

Speaking of his south-west London home, he added: "I’m going to have to sell it or remortgage it – I’m totally broke. I’m living in poverty here."

Baylis still wants patent infringement to be treated as a criminal act, and urged ministers to give money and advice to engineers who, like him, are battling to defend their designs.

It’s a cause he fiercely strong about: he formed Trevor Baylis Brands in 2003 with others to help inventors learn about how to protect their inventions and gain routes to market for viable ideas.

Baylis devised the wind-up radio in 1991 having heard about the spread of AIDS in Africa and believed the equipment could disseminate information and educational programmes to combat the disease.

His prototype ran for just 14 minutes per charge and went into production in 1995 as the Freeplay radio. A follow-up in 1997 was smaller and lighter, and ran for up to an hour after only 20 seconds of winding. This version was again updated to include a solar panel.

Baylis was made an OBE for his work, and met the Queen and Nelson Mandela. He enjoyed widespread TV coverage on BBC's Tomorrow’s World, QED and on programmes on Sky. Baylis moved on from his radio to the Electric Shoe that could charge the wearer's mobile phones and other devices' batteries while walking. ®

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