On Aug 24, an American jury found that Samsung had infringed six Apple patents, and ordered the Korean company to pay more than $1bn in damages.
It goes to show just how much good design is worth. Samsung was penalised because the curves on their phone were similar to those on the iPhone.
Adding ‘functionality’ to any machine or device like the mobile phone adds value, and makes the machine that much more interesting and valuable to buyers. This is as true with farm machinery as electronic devices — although patent infringements in this sector will never reach the award given to Apple.
Sometimes an improvement is the brainchild of users rather than designers — such as the phone apps which are regularly created by users.
My interest is with innovations which are unpatentable, and there are plenty of them.
This one is something which all farmers might benefit from.
Tractor drivers will know the problem of pulling out onto a main road.
Tractors are made with the driver’s cab well back from the front. There’s a big engine in the middle. The driver needs to be at the back, so the rear mounted machine can be controlled, and this occurs even in today’s remote controlled world.
A few years ago, Herefordshire farmer Charlie Poole picked up a truck wing mirror which was intact, and decided to fit it to the front of his tractor, adjusting it so he could see down the road on the right hand side, spotting on-coming traffic. He got the idea from my Farm Ideas magazine, and he says it has saved emergency braking on a number of occasions.
Rather than pulling out ever so gently, and hoping that anything coming along has the time to pull to a stop while the tractor moves out, he checks the mirror for anything moving, and then makes his move when all is clear.
The lens on the mirror is suited to the job, providing a wide angle of vision, but he can still see the approaching cars in it.
Tractor manufacturers will never take up the idea, as it does nothing for the tractor’s good looks, whatever the shape of the mirror.
Bonnet lines are broken, and the big mirror juts out in a very DIY way.
But the functionality is worthwhile.
There are thousands of near misses each year, and every accident is one too many.
(A local fatality here involving a motor bike brought the danger close to home for me; it caused the tractor driver a trauma which will take many years to recover from.
By the way, it was thanks to his village’s annual skip hire that Charlie Poole picked up the mirror.
Villagers club together and have a skip parked by the green, and all are free to chuck in the junk they have accumulated over the previous 12 months.
Charlie says it works well, in ways that the original thinkers never imagined. For the skip becomes an informal exchange, where junk finds a new home rather than a final resting place. He says that there have been times when the skip has never been filled, and the rubbish removed consisted of little more than some broken plastic. Old stuff such as cast iron gutters are salvaged for refurbishing, and any useful metal, bricks and other stuff find a home.