I'm flagging this submission in the interest of keeping better quality articles on the HN front page. If there is really some factual basis for the claim in the submission title, there should be much better sources to submit.
For what it's worth, here's the link to the original German article. http://einestages.spiegel.de/s/tb/25583/kane-kramer-erfinder...
Edit: At the time, it looked fishy. I did some digging, & it looked plausible enough:
So he couldn't get a product to market within 9 years (many more actually, since just because he lost the patent does not mean he wouldn't be able to produce a player). Seems like the patent system sort of worked here in the end. It would be much worse if he would still be holding the patent and could collect revenues/damages from everyone producing MP3 players today.
The patent system certainly didn't work here, even if the outcome is better than if it did.
He got a chance, but failed to make anything out of his idea, and years later other guys came along with the same idea. They most likely didn't really "copy" him, they came up with the idea independently --- a digital audio player is quite a natural evolution of, say, a Walkman. This time, some companies managed to bring a product to the market. There's no reason why they should pay him.
The patent system worked.
Somewhere along the line, the idea that patents are meant to serve the public good seems to have gotten lost...
Wasn't the patent system originally devised for protecting businesses like his? Small companies trying to be innovative and trying to compete with the big guys.
This guy seems like a role model of what the patent system was designed for, and just (or even) there it fails.
Also, 8mb in 1984 sounds like a lot of memory. I wonder what storage mechanism / technology he used.
- US patent was granted in 1987 and maintenance fees must be paid 3.5, 7.5 and 11.5 years after that i.e. first fees due in 1991; UK patent was granted in 1985 and maintenance fees must be paid 4, 5, 6, etc years after that, i.e. first payment in 1989. So why the hell does a 1988 boardroom dispute result in being unable to pay the small fees required 1 and 3 years later?
- nevermind the chronology, if you have 60 million pounds worth of orders then getting a bank manager to loan you 60,000 pounds for licensing fees is a simple matter; he probably didn't actually have 60 million pounds of orders (there's no citation in the article for verifying this claim either)
- whatever number of orders he did have were clearly not enough to convince banks or investors to pony up the 60k required; now, if he didn't have enough orders in 1989, when the UK maintenance fees became due, which was 3 years after the trade show in 1986, the real problem must be he didn't run his business properly, not patent maintenance fees
- or maybe the 60k wasn't really the full extent of the business's financial issues; either way there's only 2 possibilities here: his product didn't deliver what it claimed to and so he couldn't raise the funding he required, or the product was fine but he ran the business poorly
Reading between the lines, what's sad in this story isn't the patent system, it's the lack of business acumen required to take a product to market. Had the patent been extended it's unlikely he would have been commercially successful (other than perhaps to peddle the patent onwards, which isn't what people seem to be defining as success here) because the problem wasn't a matter of time, it was one of business strategy and execution.
There is also a backlog for patents in certain technologies, so after you file, you may have to wait for a several years before you need to "prosecute" the patent.
In case you have a good idea you can simply write it down, print it out, sign it and send it to yourself via certified paper mail. When you receive the mail you don't open it. You simply put it in a safe place. Then you can use this to prove prior art because its more or less a official document according to the (German) law. Again: I am not a lawyer and this may be totally wrong...
I guess the silver lining is that I am in possession of government stamped receipt confirming prior art in this domain.
The fact that you thought of it first - assuming you did, because there may be many more people like you, some of those may have had the idea even earlier - should not give you a right to a slice of someone else's pie.
Further note I have no interest in taking a slice of anyone's pie. If I did, I would not be discussing this matter here with you; I would have taken my lawyer's advice. The only (hypothetical) interest at this point would have been to defend against a patent in this domain.
This is a world of billions of people. Billions. The romantic idea of one man/woman inventing something - without another man/woman inventing the same unknowingly - is just not realistic for most things.
To quote Heinlein:
“When railroading time comes you can railroad—but not before.”
This statement is what caught my eye. Kind of ironic though.
I suspect he just never got it to work. And as others have said a digital music player was very likely conceived and invented by many people. The whole world was going digital in the 80's/90's everything from clocks to cameras to toasters to tv, so the little Walkman was an obvious stepping stone to a digital music player.
Apple didn't even invent the digital music player, they just put a click wheel on their design which was better than the competitions interface and the rest is history...
As an anecdotal aside, i went to see the new nano in the sf apple store and noticed that its in the back and I was the only person looking, on a very busy Saturday afternoon. I think the digital music player has finally reached its newspaper moment. The abundance of smartphones has made p&s cameras, watches and portable muaic players unnecessary. To to mention GPS navigation systems, atlases, encyclopedia...