The deep flaw is non-availability of development capital
As an inventor, I can only fall back on my own experience. I filed five patent applications 16th January 1989 and, simply because I could not afford to, (had no access to the capital needed), I left three in abeyance and carried on with the other two. So I had two UK patent applications. Now, when you get to the stage of applying for anything other than your initial UK patent, (long before you have any idea of a grant of the original application), you have to make a choice. if you wish to apply for a European patent, you first of all have to formally abandon your UK application. So, having done that I then found, what with the costs of using a patent agent, I could file the applications, but was then faced with the costs of process, search and examination. By that time I was in the middle of a massive recession and had, several times, to ask for more time to pay the filing and search fees. At each point where I could not afford to pay the dues I was granted an extension in time, but at the same time fined for not paying on time and at the end of that process, early 1992, I was both unemployed and on welfare while being faced with a bill amounting to the price of a small house to fund the European patent process for two patent applications. Ergo, the system formally abandoned me.
A close friend and associate loaned me a small sum and using that, and, as I had filed a Patent Cooperation Treaty Application, (PCT), allowing me the right to apply to every country, I filed an application for the United States of America. At the same time, I also set into motion the translation of the very costly, (but very well drafted by the expensive patent agent - no complaints), File copy agreed with the international division of the UK patent office into Korean and Japanese and had them filed as applications. (I could not afford to pay for the translations except by tiny instalments and that in turn brought me into an amazing situation with my Japan patent agent who had never known any Japanese inventor being unfunded). Something quite unheard of in Japan as the inventor is set at the pinnacle of Japanese industrial society.
I found that dealing with the US patent office an interesting experience. They accept that ordinary individuals file patents and do not immediately, (unlike the UK patent office), demand that you employ a patent agent. Indeed, if they had, I would not have been able to proceed. Over the next few years I worked my way through a mountain of "Office Actions" to the point where the US patent office agreed they would grant, but I needed professional help with drafting claims that met the US patent office requirements.
I then, by dint of persistence on the phone found myself an agent who agreed to draft claims. To cut a very long story short, I was granted my first US patent in Sept 1998, nearly ten years after first filing. Almost immediately, without any intervention on my part Japan granted me a patent based upon the original translation of the original record copy that had been passed through WIPO.
I am now the proud owner of the Japan patent and three US patents, (the original and two continuances), and have, on the face of it, a very valuable intellectual property holding. You would be wrong to think that.
I still owe the original UK patent agent 15,000 UK Pounds. Over the period since filing in 1989, I suppose I have paid out many many thousands and have never received a penny in return. Moreover, every year, I have to pay out patent maintenance fees to keep them in use.
In my humble opinion, the patent system is deeply flawed. Not because of the way it is organised, but because unless you have access to substantial capital, the patents we are granted are, very effectively, worthless. Indeed, more than worthless, very costly.
The deep flaw is non availability of development capital. Please, do not mention Venture Capital. It does not exist unless you are prepared to give away your patents, making a mockery of the whole idea of free enterprise and free competition. At my level, Venture capital is a not funny joke. Period.
The entire international patent system, not just the UK, needs to recognise that it is embedded in a very cosy, extremely well paid occupation, employment totally protected by government treaty and law; for everyone, except the individual inventor.
The overall loss to the nations income, in just my own case, must run to billions. (I hold the original patents for any wireless transmitter, which includes a camera and a navigation system.... all your GPS enabled camera phones for example), filed 16th January 1989 no less.
Disregard the other of the two original applications, (that I persisted with), which is left hanging to cut costs and again any other ideas I have had, (usually several per year that have never seen the light of day and now regard that I have just started the whole process all over again, but now with a UK patent office that simply will not deal with you unless you employ a patent agent. (No doubt on the assumption that, as he has a handsome income, everybody else involved with filing patents must either be as wealthy or corporate and thus well funded).
There is no incentive for anyone to make any change to the existing system. The European examiners, (as New Scientist noted when the EPO was first established), earn a very handsome income. I cannot imagine any UK examiner earning anything less. My patent agent back in 1989 was charging handsomely. Everyone, from civil servants to lawyers, everyone inside the system earns a good stipend. No one and I repeat for effect; No One, has any incentive to create the funding we need to be able to compete against the incumbents to the present market place for our "new" products.
They all know in their hearts that we keep on applying for no other reason than it presents the greatest intellectual challenge, with the smallest reward.... and we go on because, at the end of the day, we can stand tall as individuals in a desert ocean of total indifference knowing they cannot.
Not one of them invented anything themselves and they have the brass cheek to look down upon us because we are financially poor.......
Christopher Francis Coles.
Very proud to call himself; Inventor.