Britain needs to overhaul patent laws, says gaming icon

Britain needs to overhaul patent laws, says gaming icon
David Braben - strident views on patent and IP

One of the icons of the once-burgeoning British gaming industry believes that laws must be changed over intellectual property and patents if the UK is to flourish in tech and gaming.

David Braben, co-creator of iconic game Elite, believes that there are major problems in the way in which patents operate.

The Frontier Developments founder told TechRadar that he found himself at odds with one of his idols, Sir James Dyson, over his belief that patents were fundamentally flawed on a BBC radio show.

"I have to admit I think [Dyson] doesn't like me very much," he said "We had a patent discussion on the Today programme - and I should say that he's actually one of my heroes - but I also believe that patents in the tech sector and in the software sector are very damaging.

"I have spoken out about it in the past but the trouble is Dyson says he wouldn't be where he is today because his business is dependent on patents because of imitators from abroad and I do feel torn by that."


Braben outlined his belief that the likes of Dyson should be protected, but those that take advantage of the flawed system should be penalised.

"Fundamentally, I'm talking about things that are obviously wrong and if we can find a way to fix it.

"As a world, it would be great if we can address the problem, not patents themselves, but people who get a patent for things that are, even at the time, obvious, and then sit on it until there's about a year left on the patent and sue everyone who has done the obvious thing.

"That's different from the issues that the likes of Apple and Samsung are having: I mean things like a patent for 3D graphics which was silly at the time and is even sillier now it has expired.

"Innovations like... the work Dyson has done and something like the Black & Decker workmate where it's a clever design are worthy of protection, but we have to find a way to knock out the ridiculous patents."

Patently wrong

Braben explains a specific problem that he has faced with a patent that he believes was spurious.

"Elite violated certain patents but it violated them retrospectively - ie the game was written and published before the patent was filed," he said.

"The ridiculous thing is that it's merely a defence to have done it before. You still violate the patent even though that single fact should unravel the patent, but the law is so expensive that people will settle even when they know full well its wrong because it costs thousand to refute these things and lots of time."

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.