If you have used a touch screen nowadays, washed your arms the usage of a faucet that detects your palms without touching, or opened your car door while not having to the touch your key, you’ve got likely used generation patented and marketed by inventor and entrepreneur Hal Philipp. Hal’s generation has been offered or licensed to Apple, Bang & Olufsen, BMW, Casio, Sanyo, Ford, General Electric, HP, Lexmark, Microsoft, LG, Philips, Samsung, Electrolux, Miele, Bosch-Siemens, Whirlpool, Xerox, and hundreds of others.

Like many in technical development, Hal isn’t one to toot his own horn. The pleasure of advent and the financial rewards of a hit discount to exercise are sufficient. But because of our lengthy friendship, I was able to pry Hal out of his reclusive hole for a 5-part Mind Matters News podcast interview, recorded in his home and related underneath. In the podcast, we find out about the experience of a young entrepreneur beating his very own path thru the jungles of invention, trade, regulation, competition, licensing, and technical predators. Hal’s tale confirms the need for marketers to work long hours and repeatedly recover from failure. But while Hal bought his organization to Atmel (considering the fact that obtained through Microchip) in 2008, the final end result of achievement had been sweet.

You could be surprised at the advice that Hal, who by no means borrowed from banks or raised challenge capital, gives to budding marketers who want to comply with his direction. The recommendation is in the 5th and very last Mind Matters News podcast.


The course to Hal’s fulfillment changed into now not clean. His patented technology was copied without permission by using many, such as an MIT Professor, a DOD contractor, and Apple. Patent litigation, we study in the podcasts, is a massive boy’s game. The bigger they may be, the harder they hit. Small, undercapitalized companies stand little danger of prevailing large-greenbacks patent litigation.

Large agencies often use the patents of little humans with out reservation or permission. If a massive organisation sues a small business enterprise, it can both squash the small business with its felony might or maybe buy the little agency. We’d like to think there may be morality and a sense of truthful play in large agencies. But the cost of the usage of different human beings’s patents with out permission is frequently visible as just another fee of doing enterprise. When Apple infringed on Hal’s contact sensing patents, his business turned into in the end huge enough to combat lower back with patent litigation. Details are in the podcasts.

The avenue to the achievement that Hal Philipp enjoys nowadays turned into laced with landmines. When cash starts offevolved rolling in, marketers have to assume complaints. Patent trolls representing the patents of questionably related generation threaten litigation in case you don’t cough up the equivalent of ransom. In the podcast, you’ll pay attention how Hal went on the offense and sued one such troll in a way that might fee it massive greenbacks if litigation persevered. Faced with this sort of smart and surprising chess pass, Hal’s troll whimpered away, tail tucked. But no longer all predatory complaints can be averted and they can without problems smash a small commercial enterprise.

I suffered minor collateral damage inside the conflict that ensued from one of the enterprise landmines Hal stepped on. For without a doubt writing a letter in help of Hal, I changed into threatened with arrest and prison via a bully business enterprise that changed into suing Hal in my view. It worried a venture I became now not even working on. Budding entrepreneurs, recollect this story while you begin your own business: Success by no means comes smooth and frequently calls for time and again rising from the ashes of failure. The faint of coronary heart ought to get a job with Lockheed.

“Fluke” is More Than a Mistake
After serving in WWII, John Fluke (1911–1984) began the John Fluke Engineering Co. In his basement, production and selling electric powered energy meters. Fluke Corporation keeps to sell test and measurement equipment to at the present time. On John Fluke’s loss of life in 1984, his son John Fluke Jr. Assumed control and the Fluke agency began preying on smaller organizations. It wasn’t usually a hit. In one patent case, mainly, Fluke pulled returned a bloody stump.

In the overdue Nineteen Eighties, Fluke sued Talon Industries, a small California corporation for patent infringement on a microprocessor design. Talon was observed not responsible in 1992. But whilst Fluke did not pay Talon’s legal charges, as predicted, Talon launched a malicious prosecution lawsuit the subsequent 12 months. In 1997, Talon won a $6 million judgment within the case, a verdict considered “unusual” in a discipline complete of legal professionals who make their living from litigation.

According to the Puget Sound Business Journal (February five, 1990), Talon Industries became best certainly one of many fledgling companies legally bullied by means of Fluke. While litigation is only a fee of doing enterprise for massive corporations, it may be a lethal most cancers for small companies. During the Fluke litigation, Robert Corby, Talon’s president and founder, advised the Journal, “We’re simply seeking to live on… I think it’s a rattling shame.”

This series of events was in the background while Hal’s corporation, Philipp Technologies, contracted with Fluke to develop a quick hand-held oscilloscope, the usage of implicit sampling. I bear in mind being inspired on the time by way of the ingenuity of Hal’s design. When the development contract among Hal and Fluke was no longer renewed, Hal anticipated Fluke to go back his prototypes, this is, his highbrow assets. But Fluke did now not go back them.

Fluke dug in its heels, attorneys got worried and the litigation turned nasty. After a wave of poor publicity about the conflict hit the media, Fluke sought a gag order on Hal. The case dragged on. Soon Hal’s financial resources had been depleted.

Two Lawyer Jokes
Hal’s settlement with Fluke had dictated that any conflicts would be settled by way of binding arbitration. To keep away from ballooning court expenses and terrible publicity, agencies frequently pick out arbitration by a attorney, who hears the information and makes a binding decision. By the listening to date, Hal’s employer become walking out of cash and he wished surgical operation. Not only that but his father lay in a Pittsburgh medical institution, death of cancer. Distracted by means of ache and grief, Hal had to act as his personal lawyer. As the announcing goes, he had a idiot for a consumer. Even so, the evidence Hal supplied turned into simple. The arbitrator ruled that, contrary to Fluke’s claims, Hal did personal all the disputed highbrow belongings. It seems like a clean victory. Right?

No. It was a clean however luxurious victory. The arbitrator additionally provided Fluke money back of the improvement charges that they had paid Hal. That is, below the prison concept of “recision,” due to the fact the dispute worried the improvement agreement itself, the events pass again to where they began. Hal retained the patent rights and all the prototypes and Fluke got its cash returned. It became an unfair ‘cut up the infant’ kind of decision. As Hal placed it, “I gained the conflict but lost the battle.” He admits that he might have averted this ruling if he ought to have afforded good enough prison recommendation.

While Hal appreciated getting his intellectual property back, Philipp Technologies turned into now broke. He had no price range to pay lower back Fluke’s “development prices.” Hal had already spent his whole financial savings on the litigation and he had no different assets of immediately profits. He’d already been reduced to letting all of his workforce go and last the organization’s doors.

In every case of litigation I even have touched as a litigant or hired professional, each facets emerged with serious struggle scars. Abraham Lincoln had it right: “Discourage litigation.” Hal won the struggle with Fluke but misplaced the struggle. The era become his as he claimed, but his enterprise turned into now broke and not able to reimburse Fluke as ordered.

The subsequent step for Fluke become to try to move after Hal in my opinion for the cash. They wanted the one asset Hal nevertheless retained—the patents. Fluke could declare Hal’s patents if they succeeded towards him in courtroom. And Fluke desired the legally awarded pound of flesh.

Hal did as a minimum one thing proper. He owned the patents; his organization did now not. He’d certified the patents to his company in order that they remained in his private call. By going after Hal’s employer, Fluke got here up empty-passed. But now Fluke changed into trying to “pierce the corporate veil” through coming after Hal individually.

In order to preserve their litigation, Fluke needed to serve Hal with papers. Just as within the movies, the papers had to be served in my opinion. That is, a technique server representing Fluke lawyers walks up to you, slaps some papers in your chest, and says “You’re served.” You’re then legally obliged to do what the papers say.

But if nobody can locate you, you could’t be served with criminal papers, so that you can avoid some thing they may be annoying that you do. At the very least, this buys time. Hal figured it become an awesome time to fly lower back to Pittsburgh to assist out his mom after his father’s loss of life. And he turned into underneath no duty to tell Fluke’s legal professionals of his whereabouts.

With a Little Help From My Friends
While this fiasco became unfolding, I was running with Hal on a undertaking referring to time-frequency shows— geared toward producing a better spectrogram. I had also consulted for Fluke, reading a proposed coding algorithm devised by using considered one of their engineers. Hal and Fluke were both within the extra Seattle place in the course of the time that I became a prof on the University of Washington in Seattle. There had been many different neighborhood ties. John Fluke Sr. Had graduated from the University of Washington with an electrical engineering degree in 1935. His son, John Fluke Jr., was also an alumnus and Fluke Manufacturing turned into a beneficiant consumer of the University of Washington.

During the warfare, I talked to Hal and, remembering Christ’s dictum “Blessed are the peacemakers,” provided to write Fluke’s Chairman of the Board, David Potter, on his behalf. I had hoped that my reputation as a complete professor at the university could earn me a listening to. But I acquired a scathing response from Fluke, pronouncing that the organization turned into only seeking to collect from the unreasonable Hal Philipp.

And then the weirdness commenced.

One day my spouse Monika observed a man sitting in a vehicle parked on the scale back at the cul-de-sac in which we lived. She determined this for numerous days. I realized that, because of my letter to Potter, Fluke knew that Hal and I were buddies. It regarded that Fluke had regarded up my deal with and was casing my residence for Hal’s possible look. If he seemed, the person would bounce out of the auto, walk as much as Hal, present him with papers and say, “You’ve been served.” It become a waste of time. Hal was already in Pittsburgh.

Then one day I acquired a phone call from a reporter. She told me she turned into doing an in-depth tale on the manner Fluke changed into beating up small businesses. She became disgusted with Fluke and desired to interview me in man or woman approximately my enjoy in the be counted. It might be excellent, she stated, if she could also speak to Hal. She explained that she had attempted to attain him and not using a success.

I said I idea her story become a great idea, one that might surely help Hal. I positioned her on keep and called him at a secured quantity to tell him the best news. His reaction changed into instant:

“She’s no reporter.”

It dawned on me: a sting operation. The “reporter” wanted Hal and me to satisfy her for an “interview” in order that Hal may be served.

I ended the decision with Hal and reconnected with the faux reporter. I requested for her call, which she gave. Who did she work for? She was freelance. What other articles had she written? She stated she’d be glad to ship me a listing however she mainly wrote memories on enterprise.

I then dissolved her façade with a unmarried query.

“Do you mind if I document our verbal exchange?” I requested.

I had no system handy however the bluff labored. Her reaction became instant and emphatic. Absolutely NO recording!

Reporters regularly report conversations themselves after they do interviews. So her terrible response didn’t make feel. I was now satisfied of Hal’s judgment: “She’s no reporter.” Partially due to disgust at my very own naiveté, I unexpectedly hung up.

Finding out you’re being played may be infuriating. Dissing a failed predator, though, is exhilarating.

Then some thing happened all of a sudden. I become served a subpoena to seem in court to answer Fluke’s questions. Technically, my wife received it on my behalf but this is approved for subpoenas. The subpoena said that I might be deposed under oath and gave the area and time I turned into to appear. I knew in which Hal turned into staying and that they seemed to want to use a criminal crowbar to pry the records from me below penalty of perjury.

The proposed deposition time and date conflicted with an out-of-city conference I changed into devoted to wait. I wrote to Fluke’s legal professionals, explaining the situations, and skipped the deposition. At the time, I was working with an intellectual property lawyer, Russ Tarlington, on the claims for considered one of my very own patents. I casually cited to Russ that I had skipped Fluke’s subpoena date.

He went bug-eyed with concern, telling me, “You don’t forget about subpoenas! You can get into big problem.” He supplied to name Fluke’s legal professionals on my behalf. After they chatted, he advised me that I had one more threat. If I did not reply to the next subpoena, Fluke could send the Sheriff to arrest me and placed me in chains.

All this because I wrote a letter in assist of Hal. Good grief.

At this time Hal’s Pittsburgh cellphone quantity received voice mail only. I called and informed him about the deposition, which intended that I turned into going to turn his posterior in. (My language become more down-to-earth.) He called me returned and said not to worry. I had no desire. He would take care of factors on his cease.

At the deposition, I instructed the deposing Fluke attorney, Donald L. Logerwell, Esq., that I had warned Hal approximately the deposition some days earlier and that I might be under oath and spilling my guts to Fluke approximately Hal. And so I did. I also informed him where Hal turned into, staying with his mother in Pittsburgh.

This become my first deposition. I had now not yet learned that, in the course of adversarial thinking, you most effective answer the questions asked. You volunteer nothing. The identical rule applies in the course of an IRS audit. Later, as an professional witness in patent litigation, I mastered quick direct solutions all through adverse depositions. Lawyers on my aspect had taught me to be more zippy-confronted.

During that deposition, Logerwell asked me again and again approximately era under development at Hal’s company. What turned into the technology? Could I pick out technical human beings Hal employed? Who were the corporations he become running with? I was even requested if I owed Hal money. I didn’t. But if I did, I suspect Fluke would claim it as their very own.

The deposition ended. The courtroom reporter packed up and left. Fluke lawyer Logerwell, in a tailor-made match, monogrammed shirt, and cuff hyperlinks, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Thanks on your cooperation,” in feigned sincerity. “Understand we have no choice to inconvenience you. I hope that you will now not use this to disrupt our nice courting with the University of Washington.”

Inconvenience me? Subpoenas!? Bullying me with threats of jail!? I told Logerwell that I was disgusted and left.

Tarnished Gold at the Rainbow’s End
Shortly after this, Hal moved from his mother’s house to a small apartment in a nondescript part of Pittsburgh, in anticipation of Fluke’s subsequent circulate. His mother informed him that she’d been noticing someone parked in the road nearby. Fluke had reputedly retained an investigator to track him down in Pittsburgh. Apparently, even Fluke observed subpoenaing and deposing a mom about her son’s whereabouts become reprehensible as an opportunity.

Obviously, all of this was costing Fluke a variety of cash in pinnacle-drawer attorneys and hired investigators, in all likelihood loads more than the arbitrator’s “recision award” was worth. The query is, “Why?” I suspect that, in Fluke’s own estimation, Hal’s patents were well worth a fortune. I also suspect that there was additionally contact of vindictiveness at Hal for now not playing ball by way of giving Fluke the patents for a tune on the stop of the contract. Recall that Fluke become additionally successfully sued by using Talon Industries for malicious prosecution.

Fluke in no way located Hal in Pittsburgh and within the aftermath, he lived a fairly regular existence there, looking to rebuild a patent licensing and representative enterprise. Later, he moved to Florida, in which he married. Fluke’s investigators subsequently observed Hal in Florida and deposed him. In the three years after he left Seattle, but, he became capable of rebuild his finances and could now find the money for a first rate protection. He retained a top Seattle regulation firm which appealed the matter to a choose. The decide threw out Fluke’s entire case for the reason that Fluke had no prison foundation to go after Hal. Furthermore, Fluke changed into barred from appealing this choice. So by using 1994, after years being Fluke’s prey, Hal was freed from its tentacles at the same time as maintaining all of his patents.

Victory… sure. But at what value?

Something is wrong with an American legal machine that leaves a litigant twisting in the wind even after a clear legal victory. Hal became discouraged approximately US company business ethics and the American prison device. In late 1996, long after the Fluke case turned into in his rear-view mirror, Hal packed up his patents and moved to Great Britain, a land with fewer legal professionals. There, he began to rebuild, from scratch, without outside investment or loans of any kind, his now multi-million-dollar business, Quantum Research Group Ltd.

As you’ll hear in the podcast, Hal nonetheless encountered a excellent many character and corporate predators. Man is fallen and conniving jerks searching for a unfastened lunch are anywhere. But Hal’s enterprise and budget have been now large sufficient to legally play with the massive boys. That covered going after Apple for patent infringement.

The Moral of the Story
In a feel, I changed into an observer on the sidewalk, hit by way of a flying tire after a head-on automobile crash. Hal became driving one of the crashed motors and changed into not the driving force at fault. He climbed from the wreckage critically wounded, retrieved his personal assets, and were given into every other car. There were severa other collisions and fender benders on his road to achievement. But perseverance and a robust person gained the day.

One day Hal realized that, even if you win the rat race, you’re nonetheless a rat. So he decided to coins out while nonetheless young and revel in the remainder of his existence along with his family. It become over a decade ago that he bought his business to Atmel for a quite penny and he has not regarded back. I visited Hal and his own family in his lovely domestic in which we recorded the five-component Mind Matters News podcast approximately his adventure. His story will inspire you.


“Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a course on your door.” Today, that is far from proper. Small entrepreneurs fall inside the shadows of massive corporate giants like Google, Microsoft and Amazon. So what does it take to convey a clever concept to marketplace? We communicate to Hal Philipp, the inventor and entrepreneur who made touch screens cheaper and whose technology is today used all around the international.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *