Being a female inventor is great

You can build the right idea from scratch and achieve both commercial and financial success, way beyond the limits achievable in a conventional career. No glass ceilings here. You can rise as high as you dare to dream. As women, we are well equipped to do this. We have practical common sense, intuition, creative flair, drive and determination. However, there is an additional important characteristic required and that is courage.

I knew the Anywayup® cup would be much more commercial than my previous invention, so I spent a lot more on IP rights, registering patents in all my strategic markets. By protecting my non-spill cup idea with patents, trademarks and insurance, I was able to enforce my rights and secure my position as market leader, reaping the reward for all the years hard work!

Insurance is costly, but for me it was essential. We have had to take infringers to court in the UK, Europe and USA  and fortunately my patents held up. I would have lost everything if I had allowed people to continue infringing. Whoever said imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

As an inventor, it is important to understand how intellectual property works and to do as much as you can to protect your ideas before you share information. By protecting my technologies, I was able to secure my position in the market and reap the benefit from years of hard work.

Top tips

Improve your chance of success

Sadly, infringement is a fact of life for every successful inventor. Until there is cultural change within the business community and the enforcement system is sufficiently improved, the ‘little guy’ will continue to suffer. Social change is also needed, to recognise and respect the rights of creators in all fields. Creativity must continue to reap financial reward in order to be sustainable. IP education has an important role to play in schools and universities.

However, in spite of all the challenges I have experienced, I maintain that having an idea and turning that idea into reality is a hugely satisfying and rewarding experience and I would encourage any would-be inventor to go for it and make your spark fly!

Inventors’ resources 

Resources to help would-be inventors.

UK Intellectual Property Office
World Intellectual Property Organisation 
British Library’s IP and Business Centre to support innovation and entrepreneurship. 

What to do should infringements occur?

The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court provides a lower cost route to IP enforcement but damages are capped.
IP Pro Bono is an intellectual property pro bono initiative that provides intellectual property advice and legal support for claimants and defendants in intellectual property disputes.

Intellectual Property Office information on defending your intellectual property:

The Intellectual Property Office also provides ‘Opinions’ on validity and infringement. This is a brilliant enabler for resolving disputes and often avoids resorting to court action.

Much more use is now made of the Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution service. 

The Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys offer a list of practitioners.

Inventors' wish list

I was interested to hear how other inventors wanted to change the patent system. This is their wish list:

  1. The UK IPO's new digital service enables creators to register design rights and trademarks really easily online without the need of an IP professional.  This is brilliant and saves us money.  Please roll out a DIY service for patent management! 
  2. Now that the UK is out of the EU, a 'one-stop shop' is needed to provide practical support and help with finding partners and trading and licensing IP in countries that are culturally very different.
  3. As machine translation technology has advanced so dramatically, hurry up and reduce translation costs for all overseas patentees!
  4. Post-Brexit the UK should have an unregistered design right of an equivalent scope to the unregistered European design right that UK designers relied upon pre-Brexit.
  5. A single European patent court so that we don't have to chase infringers all over Europe. (This is near to fruition!)
  6. Affordable IP legal costs insurance so that it is accessible to all rights holders.
  7. Restore the integrity of the examiner’s decision. Make the grant of a patent mean something, so that the IPR of private inventors is not regarded as a joke.
  8. A support system to help private inventors and SMEs to fund enforcement actions. (In the UK there is now an IP Pro Bono Scheme providing advice and legal support in intellectual property cases for those who cannot afford to pay).
  9. Make wilful infringement a criminal offence and introduce punitive financial controls.
  10. Provision of a speedy trial and sanctions to prevent delaying tactics.
  11. Speed up the EPO opposition process and throw out strategic objections from infringing companies.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY often known as IP (or IPR - INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS), enables people to own their ideas in the same way that they can own physical property. 

The deal with IPR is: you register your idea or creative work, making it public. In return your IPR gives you protection and control of your idea and others should pay to use it. The patent system helps to encourage further innovation and creativity to the benefit of everyone.  Note: In certain countries, some IPR's exist without the need for registration. 

The patent system works but it is not an easy ride. Lone inventors or fledgling businesses often find that the cost of patent renewals and rights enforcement are prohibitive for them. Many fail because they are unable to sustain their rights or to enforce them, in order to protect their market position.

Typically, enforcement and litigation are a big part of the successful inventors life, sapping both resources and creative energy that should be put to better use. Until the system is improved, home-trade and industry will continue to suffer.

Social and business ethics need to change and, in addition, IP enforcement processes need to improve, if we are to achieve a society that nurtures and supports innovation and creativity. We need a level playing field so that the little guy has parity with the multi-national. The patent system should encourage innovation, rather than imitation and IP should be an asset, rather than a potentially devastating liability.

If you want to change the world, inventing is the way to go about it. Not only will you feel personally fulfilled but you will also be inspiring millions.


IP case studies