Elliot Rais is an inventor, entrepreneur and author whose life story (which he told in his 1994 autobiography, Stealing the Borders) reads like a movie script. As a child, he experienced wartime Germany, Siberia and a refugee camp. He had little formal schooling until the age of 12, but he managed to earn an MS in Engineering (Electrical Engineering Dept.) from New York University and has had a long and interesting career.
Rais teamed up with General Patent Corporation International to enforce his patent, U.S. Patent No. 4,475,009, which expired in 2001 and was related to call forwarding technology. The patent was assigned to Forward Technologies LLC, an IP Holdings portfolio company, and the successful patent enforcement campaign that followed resulted in 9 licensees, including Pacific Bell Telephone Company and its parent, SBC Communications, Inc. (now owned by AT&T).
Below, Rais briefly shares his thoughts on the patent system and the impossibility of "going it alone" when a small company or lone inventor attempts to go after a big infringer.
GPC: How did you get involved in the field of your patented technology?
Rais: I experienced a need for "remote call forwarding" and went about developing a solution.
What were some of the difficulties you went through in obtaining your patent?
I could not convince anyone that my solution would work until I had a working prototype.
Do you feel that the patent system mostly helps or mostly fails small companies and independent inventors? And how?
The patent system helps, but enforcement is practically impossible!
How did find out your patent was being infringed?
I ran across promotional material, announcing the infringing product's availability.
Did you write to the company offering them a license? Did they take a license?
I wrote the companies, but they ignored me.
Did you look for an attorney to sue the infringers?
I searched endlessly!
Did you find that industry (or big corporations) respects the intellectual property rights of small inventors?
They totally dismiss you...figuring that you'll go away.
Could you have enforced your patent(s) without General Patent?
Not without millions of dollars!
If you find that one of your patents is infringed in the future, would you work with General Patent again?
In a New York minute.
Though his remote call forwarding patent has expired and the enforcement campaign General Patent developed for it has ended, Elliott Rais continues to develop and patent innovative ideas.
Rais is currently seeking to license two of his latest patents, US Patent #7,121,105, "Window-mounted split air conditioning apparatus and method of installation" and "Vertical Form Laptop Computer" (US Patent Pending). (Both links lead to .WMV video demonstrations of the inventions.)