Inventor awarded £2m for diabetes invention

This week’s diabetes-related news includes a story about an inventor finally awarded the compensation he deserved following a 13-year legal battle.

Professor Ian Shanks built the first prototype of the electrochemical capillary fill device (ECFD). The technology* eventually appeared in most blood glucose testing products—a huge boost to those of us with diabetes. Professor Shanks was working for Unilever at the time.

The registration of patents by Unilever earned the company £24 million, though Professor Shanks argued it could have earned royalties for as much as one billion US dollars, had his invention been “fully exploited”.

Patents Act

He told the BBC that when he first applied for compensation, not one employee had benefited from the introduction of the Patents Act introduced 30 years earlier. The Act entitles workers who invent something that gives their employer an “outstanding benefit”, a “fair share” of the benefits.

At the Supreme Court in London, the judges unanimously agreed Professor Shanks was entitled to compensation because he had provided his former employer with an “outstanding benefit”.

Professor Shanks said most of the compensation would be taken up by his legal costs, but that he was happy on behalf of future inventors. If something they make turns out to be significant and really profitable, then it was only right they stood the chance of a reward.

“Disappointed”

Unilever told the BBC they were “disappointed” because the company had already given Professor Shanks the “salary, bonuses and benefits” when he was employed to develop new products for its business.

My t’upporth—gotta love a David Goliath battle, right? Though it seems peculiar to me Professor Shanks needed to take his claim to the highest court in the land when those preceding courts knocked him back… (A comment on the legal expertise Unilever can afford as compared to an individual.) 

I am with Professor Shanks. I want brilliant people out there working on technology and medical care that will change the lives of millions of we diabetics. And those individuals should be rewarded for the outstanding benefits they bring.

Read the full story on the BBC.

*Confession. I can’t work out the exact nature of his invention.

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