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Inside the home of Eel Pie Island's favourite inventor
Meeting inventor Trevor Baylis at his home on Eel Pie Island came with exactly the welcome I expected - walking through his workshop and past a swimming pool he made himself – to be greeted by his 13-year-old labrador Ike with a shoe-present for me (an honour each guest gets when they visit, I am told).
Baylis has been all over the news recently stating how he may have to sell his home, after his many famous inventions barely made him a penny.
Speaking this week, he says he is hopeful this will not happen, but is still keen to emphasise the need for protection and encouragement of new inventors in the UK.
The 75-year-old came up with the idea of the wind-up radio in the early 1990s but, due to the bizarre aspects of patent law, the company he went into business with was able to tweak his original design enough to cut him from the product, meaning he received little money.
He has plenty of ideas on how to combat intellectual property theft, including teaching young people the value and legality of this.
He says: “There’s something wrong with the system at the moment. Young people are not doing so much sport, or exercise, they are becoming obese because they are spending all day in front of the TV. When I was young I could make things out of Meccano before I could speak.”
Baylis has also been lobbying to turn the theft of intellectual property into a white-collar crime that carries a prison sentence, a caused picked up last week by Detective Superintendent Paul Barnard, who works for the Economic Crime Directorate at the City of London Police.
D Supt Barnard told Baylis he fully supported his comments on this issue and invited him to work with police in fighting against economic crime.
Currently patent infringement is considered to be a civil matter in the UK rather than a criminal matter.
Baylis says: “If I stole your car, you could take me to court for it, but if I steal someone’s idea, that could have cost them thousands of pounds to make, they can’t do anything.
“The economy is dying simply because inventor’s ideas are being stolen - this economy is dependent on these great ideas.”
Baylis has invented more than 250 products, including a shoe that generates enough electricity as you walk to charge a mobile phone and a self-weighing briefcase, and was recently named among the 50 greatest inventors in British history.
He built his house on Eel Pie Island in the 70s after he fell in love with the quirky spot as a young man due to his passion for jazz and the world-famous Eel Pie Club.
Baylis says: “I have everything a big boy would want, but it’s just the principle of it I want to make people aware of. I want the nation to listen and realise how important inventors are.”