Shed and Buried?

 In news

Let’s begin with Alan Partridge:

“Hi Susan. I was a bit bored, so I dismantled my Corby Trouser Press. I can’t put it back together again. Will that show up on my bill?”

Comedy gold. But spare a thought for the inventor and all the other eccentric boffins who toiled in their sheds to deliver a wondrous array of new gadgets for us to enjoy, or dismantle, to our heart’s content.

Peter Corby passed away a few weeks ago but his heated trouser press lives on albeit more popular abroad than here. For travelling salesman (and many others) finding one attached to the wall of your hotel room having just checked-in, is an irresistible allure. And you just know you’ll have the sharpest of creases in your suit trousers the next morning. You can sleep easy and enjoy the chocolate on your pillow. All because men like Mr Corby tinkered in their sheds.

Angle-poise lamps, cat’s eyes, wind-up radios, even hovercrafts and jet engines were all conceived and often first built, in homespun sheds and workshops. What a curious yet gloriously innovative nation we were and, thankfully, still are. Our shed inventors are no endangered species either, but they are protected. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) performs a similar function for these lone inventors as the WWF does in protecting the Snow Leopard, but no-one rattles a collection tin. They don’t need to.


The IPO (formerly the UK Patent Office) is the protector of our shed pioneers. For those not familiar with its activities, in very simple terms, the IPO is a government organisation that manages and processes intellectual property applications in the UK. It’s responsible for protecting the intellectual property rights of inventors, artists and designers including:

  • Patents
  • Trade marks
  • Designs
  • Copyright

The IPO itself, perhaps unsurprisingly given its role in supporting innovation, comes under the authority of The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.  Its role is intended to be dynamic delivering on an annual Corporate Plan guided by a Steering Board. In theory, this allows it to flex to ensure it does its very best for UK innovators and protects our growing knowledge-based economy.

Incredibly, the IPO and Patent Office roots go back some 500 years. Patents have protected designs (in the textile industry in particular) since 1449. It’s true to say the UK has a vast history of invention and protection.

The IPO is the natural home for our shed-dwelling men and women when posting their ideas. Legal complications and the costs of modern IP protection can be off-putting and there is some evidence lone inventors are filing less documentation in recent years and yet they clearly remain very active and a force of nature.

Wacky Races

Any basic on-line search involving British madcap inventions delivers handsomely. Let’s leave you with a few to whet the appetite.

The motorised roller-skate

Designed for tired soldiers in WW2. It never really took off. Wonder why?

The musical frying pan

What’s the point, or why not? Take your pick.

Toothpaste squeezer

Ever squeezed too much and watched it fall – wasted – into the basin. Well, not anymore. This device delivers just the right amount. Form a queue.

And finally…

The Snogometer

Yes, that’s right, a device to measure the voltage of kisses which is connected to the mains. Even the inventor considered it “very unsafe” and said it left a taste of copper in the mouth. If you survived…that is.

Daftness aside, the knowledge economy is going to be critical to Britain’s future. The ONS recently estimated that up to 39% of businesses in the UK are what they call “knowledge intensive” and on the Global Index of the same the UK is currently 4th. In cash terms this delivered £63.8 billion into our economy in 2019. That figure is increasing.

Go build a workshop. Your country needs your ideas.

Murray Fairclough
Development Underwriter
OPUS Underwriting Limited  
+44 (0) 203 920 9985
Researched by Ben Fairclough


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