|Home page Contact Terra Firma Tools|
Terra Firma Tools
Garden Hand Fork and Trowel
" What happened to this Patent, the tool, the business ? ......"
Confused ? go on read a lesson on....How to avoid the pitfalls of a patent !
Extracted article published in 2009
Terra Firma Tools magazine article by Walsall Council in September 2009 for the Patented tool Handle
Extracted article published in 2009 Terra Firma Tools article for the Patented tool Handle
( Please note, this site is owned exclusively by Alan Neath, If there is any error in the observations within this website, I would be very happy to hear from you, directly on 07932 174550 and if you have been the victim of patent fraud, trickery or theft, perhaps i may be able to help you, by sharing some of my experience and knowledge.
The story begins here.....Peter Neath was seen on Dragons Den with his invention the "grillstream grills".
It took Peter and his Grillstream partner ( Ian), around 8 years of hard work to get there, In addition, for approx 2 years, Peter was also working with his brother Alan who had an original idea and prototype for a new tool handle design.
Peter found that the Grillstream bbq patent and business was sizzling away in the background, giving him spare time and following a discussion about Alan's idea and looking at his working tool design, Peter was excited by Alan's idea, so an obvious opportunity lay ahead for a NEW joint venture, which was agreed, bringing Alan's idea and Peter's knowledge together in a equal partnership with a shake of hands between brothers at Peters house late one afternoon. Rule 1, NEVER trust and handshake agreement even with a family memeber, when it comes to money or patents. )
Time to dig in, and 2 years work started
Please note for clarification, it was understood, that the new venture to patent and commercialise the tool handle was only between Peter and Alan Neath and in no way connected with Grillstream or other persons involved with Grillstream, however, Peter was quick to make associtions between the two seperate issues by talking on radio shows, giving interviews to the press for publication and making it appear to be all interconnected because it suited his wishes at that time.
This new handle concept was first applied to garden tools with a working, functional tool made by Alan a full time gardener at that time and led to the REFINEMENTS AND development of the "Terra Firma" or "Terra Raptor" Easi garden hand fork and Easi trowel. ( Naming the tool was not finalised )
Peter and Alan carried out the first task of any new patent idea...due diligence and patent searches, This was mostly completed by Alan because he had much faster internet access than Peter, which resulted in discovering no valid prior art to challenge a potential patent application, or on the other hand, perhaps it is easier for Peter to give hours of work researching to the stupid partner in this arragement.
After reviewing all these searches, Alan and Peter agreed that the patent application would have a high probability of being unchallenged, so it was agreed the time was right to protect the idea with the formal application to the IPO, Interlectual Property office or Patent office if you prefer, which Peter was very familiar with from his experience with Grillstream and his existing Patent Attorney.
A patent document was drawn up by Peter and his long standing ( Grillstream ) patent attorney and submitted to protect the intellectual property rights jointly for Alan and Peter
Shortly following that first meeting, Peter told Alan that the their patent was now protected, and the secrecy of the idea could be relaxed and now discussed with other parties, as a joint application in both our names was now in place. Rule 2, if you are applying for a patent, go to the meeting yourself, to make sure what names are included on the patent application document.
Peter explained to Alan, that when the patent application was filed, it would be safe to discuss the idea with other parties without risk, with potential suppliers, designers and consultants. During this time the idea is protected as a patent pending, which allowed Alan and Peter to then develop and progress the idea untill such time as it would be granted an award of full patent rights, which they confidently and fully expected due to the thorough research previously done.
Some months passed and out of simple cuiosity, Alan searched for the tool handle patent application online, as he had not seen any documents provided by Peter and was thrilled to find the patent details, which are public records.
There was something a little odd, so Alan called Peter to enquire why only Peters name was mentioned on the patent application and Peter assured Alan that it was not terribly important, just a minor problem with the forms which would be easily and quickly resolved.
Alan met with the patent attorney Mr John Badger, along with Peter on more than one occasion, when discussions took place to refine "claims" of the original patent application, indeed Alan made further additions which included new claims covering new ideas.
Well into the development of the tool handle with around 2 years time invested, Peter explained to Alan that it was very important that the patent was not owned by a business, because in the event of the business running into trouble the patent could be lost and therefore Peter was going to look at what measures were required to protect their patent, Alan was aware that the minor issue as described by Peter, where only Peter had his name on the patent, was still outstanding.
Peter had assured Alan on many, many occasions, that a clerical, administrative or printing error due to the patent document having space for only one patent applicant, meant that only Peter had his name on the patent, and also Peter as the Inventor, rather than Alan
Alan, certain that a little bit of common sense and proactive efforts would solve this long standing minor problem, researched on the internet, then approached the IPO and patent attorney for some advice.
A number of options were possible, but by far the most sensible was a simple document prepared by the patent attorney which only needed Peters signature to put everything in order.
It would also solve the question raised by Peter about fully protecting the patent in future as it would remain in the name of individuals, rather than a company, and offer the fullest of protection.
Alan made the call to the patent attorney, explained what he discovered and the methods to address it, which the attorney agreed was correct and he would therefore prepare the document for Peter to sign although Mr Badger did qualify this by asking Alan to explain the simple solution to Peter prior to the document being sent out in the post.
Alan immediately called Peter to share the good news and demonstrate that he had taken advice and now found a method to rectify this long standing minor issue which would also fully protect the patent in future, which is exactly the information Peter had told Alan was needed to be actioned, all in all , a good job , well done......
Peters signature was all that was required to correct and complete this whole issue.
Alan had done a good thorough job, saving Peter another task.
Peter should have been delighted with Alan's problem solving skills and diligence !
Peters reaction to Alan's good news was "Your going about this the wrong way !"
( sorry, I can't explain Peters reply even today, I have no idea what it meant, then or even now, despite the patent office and the Patent attorney Mr John Badger agreement that all the details i had collected were true and accurate. )
Now, after 2 years work, nearing delivery of finished sample products, finally, Alan knew he was .............? well you decide and fill the blank space, no rude words please!
Peter refused to take the advice of the patent office and the patent attorney, Peter wanted to keep things as they were, with the patent in his name only, as usual without reason, explanation or grounds
The next day, Alan spoke again with the patent attorney who was pleased to tell Alan the patent had just been granted ! talk about a fantastic bit of timing ....
In the same week of being granted a full patent and taking delivery of the first batch of retail ready ( sample ) tools complete with retail packaging, Alan discovered he had no legal or financial privileges to his own original idea, patent share, or subsequent products and business, because he was NOT named in the patent document as agreed and ASSURED BY PETER, over and over again.
As it stood, Alan could not buy, make, sell or licence his own product, without breaching the patent owned exclusively, by his brother, Peter, who had apparantley by deception, deliberately applied for sole patent rights, as sole proprietor and sole inventor.
Peter had effectively stolen Alan's idea and consistantly covered his actions by lying for almost 2 years about the joint partnership and ownership of the patent, which he maintained rigorously was in joint names despite what he assured Alan, was a slight, but unimportant clerical oversight !
For the record, the patent office ( The Intellectual Property Office ) stated when Alan enquired, that no such ( incorrectly printed ) form exists, indeed the filed patent application, clearly shows it is free from errors and is correctly printed and designed for multiple patent applicants, so clearly Peter was lying.
This could not be a simple oversight, because Peter did not complete the documents alone, indeed he went to Mr Badger who is a very capable attorney and also drew up papers in the past for Peters existing Grillstream patent which was in joint names with Ian, so this was not a difficult task to get right, certainly not for a patent attorney, unless he was deliberatly lied to, which appears to be the only plausible explanation.
Now, Alan?s original idea which he agreed to share equally with his brother Peter, by a joint proprietor patent application, was a fully granted patent with exclusive rights, but only in Peters name.
Don't reach for the tissues, it can't possibly be that bad or sad.....
Naturally, I hear you thinking, Peter would at this stage say, ok, I will sign the appropriate patent amendment document to rectify this oversight, as he had maintained for so long that it was a minor and easy issue to correct, however, he chose not to and gave no explanation.
Peter with a wealth of experience from his many years work on his own Joint Grillstream patent, had apparently made a calculated and premeditated decision to obtain full patent rights from very time he agreed to a half share of Alan's original idea, some 2 years ago and just to make that deal even better, Alan work for FREE and spent his own money and took time away from his own income producing work to do all the tasks given to him by Peter, that all adds up to a lot of time and money.
Peter had no explanation for the long term deception, although there were clues to his preference to be in total control as project leader, because Peter had expressed his regret that the existing joint partnership in his Grillstream business was unsatisfactory, well he did not use those polite terms, but it gives an insight to his motivations to lie about what he clearly planned to do to Alan from the start.
Alan was not happy.
Point to note: If you have a patent idea, never share the information with anyone unless under the strictest of confidentiality agreements in writing, or else your idea could either be claimed and filed by another person, or deemed void, as the information is in the public domain and therfore not original.
The only person who you can share it with is your patent attorney, and / or your fellow applicant (s). Please note: the thoughts I am sharing with you on this page should not be taken as legal advice, so please seek a professional, AND IF YOU HAVE A PARTNER (S) IN A PATENT, ALWAYS WATCH WHAT DOCUMENTS THEY COMPLETE !
A lesson to all.....never trust anyone to submit a patent application, not even your own brother
point to note: A patent application is designed to accommodate more than 1 applicant, so even Peter as a seasoned entrepreneur, would have seen on the form, name of applicant or applicants
The patent application also has space for the inventor, however, you the reader, your mate from the pub, or Theo Paphitis himself could be entered AS THE "INVENTOR", as under patent laws it has no legal or financial value at all, except perhaps the Kudos to say "I am the inventor", so buy me a pint please !
Just for fun, i have to add, that Peter did invite me to pay for the patent fees, but the patent office told me the truth and i politely declined Peters very generouse offer, note, if you are offered the opportunity to be part of the next innovative patent by means of paying the patent fee, don't fall for that trick, as you will have no legal or financial privileges as the patent fee financer. Patents are a tricky business, AND PAYING PATENTS FEE'S GIVES YOU NO RIGHTS TO THE PATENT.
Yes, I guess your right, Alan seems to have been a real novice on the subject of patents, but, that's why he was in partnership with his brother, Peter, to be guided around these issues and in return Peter had half share of the buiness to come in future, but for some greedy lying people, that clearly is not enough.
Warning, sit down with your patent attorney and get direct advice, rather than allow yourself to be guided by your experienced business partner, no matter who it is
Peter always made robust assurances to Alan, that the patent issue was not important and they should concentrate on working hard, bringing the tool into the market. Alan was a little disappointed but assured by Peter who insisted it was a minor issue, they got on with the job.
Alan always felt that it made sense to allow Peter to lead the joint venture, indeed Peter is very comfortable leading his own team with the Grillstream business and always seen at the forefront of any publicity opportunity, with his partners in the background.
It is well known that only one person can lead, or you won't get any work done !
( Oh.. of course that is based on a prerequisite, of trust ! )
Peter was right when he explained to Alan, that it was very important that the patent was not owned by a business, because in the event of a business running into trouble the patent could be lost. This is, I believe very true, and a very wise consideration. Indeed, it is for this reason that the BBC Dragon's Den investors, will ask, who owns the patent, because if they invest in a new business which does not own a patent, they may be investing in a new business without the major potential asset
That is the sad situation, as you have read here, which never got resolved, as it now appears clear, Peter never intended to work with Alan, or share Alan's original idea or the resulting patent
it seems clear that Peter was happy to take Alan's idea, have Alan work to develop the idea, patent, design and many other aspects untill such time as the deception was uncovered, in the full knowledge that the patent would protect Peter on the day, as that was all that ever counted
That, perhaps explains why Peter repeatedly told Alan not to worry, it was a minor issue and why Alan was never invited to the signing of the original patent application form, despite being invited to draft the claims in subsequent meetings.
Peter Neath is a very clever Dragons Den Entrepeneur!
It also explains the story of Alan's invitation from the BBC to appear on dragons den You are probably well ahead of me here, but it took me the full 2 years to realise this neat trick.
The BBC wrote to Alan, to appear on Dragons Den which coincided within days of Peter getting an invitation too, for his Grillstream product, with his Grillstream business partner
Alan, showed Peter, with some pride, that invitation.
Peter asked for the document and suggested that he needed to call the BBC because there may be a great little story here, that two brothers, each with their own product, could appear on the show and that may be a first in television, some days later Peter told Alan that the BBC rules would not allow both of us to appear, because Peter would appear twice, representing two products.
Reading this, you know Peter had the patent in his name only.....and could not possibly allow Alan to accept a BBC invitation where all the lies could be discovered.
In the event that Peter and Alan stood in a studio in front of the Dragons, one certainty would be the question, do you have a patent and who owns it, you, someone else, or the company? The answer would have certainly created a piece of television history when Peter would have, or maybe not, revealed, for the first time, live on television, the patent was in his name ONLY and most importantly......would remain so !
Perhaps that would have been the point where you saw, The BBC Dragons Den first ever live, bare knuckle boxing match.....ok maybe not, as it is pre recorded !
However, at that time very early in the partnership, the Grillstream business was much more advanced with many years work and preparation behind it and Alan was not terribly excited about a TV appearance, so Alan and Peter agreed it made sense that the Grillstream product went on TV
Peter, on reflection now, must have been very pleased with Alan's lack of TV ambition, willing brotherly support and a very unselfish gesture, for obvious reasons Peter would have been in trouble if the tool handle went on TV, it's a funny world !
What next ?.....Time to dig in again ?.....come back here and I will let you know ....
Final thought, I am embarrassed and ashamed
To all those people who helped over those 2 years or more, this is the sad state of what was achieved, I am sorry
For all those people I spoke to, who were excited to see the final product, I now have to say sorry... I don?t have a product.
I may continue to write here about the journey of developing an original idea into a patented retail product, but I may have to stop, but for now, I am really sorry, what was ready to be offered to the world, now appears to be lost and buried!
As Theo on Dragons den said to Peter, "You have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory" Time for a cup of tea.....but I will update this page one day with some unexpected twists in the progress of this patent....
Back to the top
© Copyright Terra Firma Tools. 2005 - All Rights Reserved