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Chelmsford's innovative history

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After recently moving to Chelmsford, I’ve enjoyed acclimatising to living in one of Britain’s newest cities. However it is still the statement that greeted my arrival, “Welcome to Chelmsford – the birthplace of radio”, which made the greatest impression. I found this a bold claim but, nonetheless, I was pleased to learn – as every Chelmsfordian surely knows – that this relates to Mr Guglielmo Marconi, who opened the world’s first ‘wireless’ factory on Hall Street, in the Old Moulsham area, back in 1899.

The more I learnt, the more I considered how Marconi would have gone about protecting his intellectual property rights in today’s technology-mad world. His first task would be, undoubtedly, to patent his innovation, which would have prevented any disputes over who ‘got there first’. I can only imagine the disappointment that an inventor must endure if they spend years developing an idea and subsequently fail to get the patent registered before a competitor! A similarly urgent registration would have been that of the ‘Marconi Wireless’ trademark. To put the value of this brand into context, the closest modern equivalents would be those of either Apple or Samsung.

Of course, if he was around today, I like to think that Marconi would have appreciated Birkett Long’s local, progressive approach and looked no further for assistance in these intellectual property matters. Plus, as his business expanded and he moved into the purpose-built ‘New Street Works’, Birkett Long would have been best placed (both geographically and commercially!) to advise on all of Marconi’s property and business transactions.

Radio today is almost unrecognisable from Marconi’s time – you can listen on TV, a digital set and even on demand over the internet – and it’s incredible to think how significant a role Chelmsford played in developing this groundbreaking form of media. There is a good chance, too, that the Marconis of the future are sitting at home now, tinkering away with a new innovation, unsure of what success it may bring them. And that’s not to mention other ‘creatives’ such as musicians, designers and IT programmers. I just hope they all realise the importance of protecting their work as a priority – whether it is a patent, trademark, design or copyright. Otherwise, if someone else has the same or similar idea, and protects it first, they may be left empty-handed and their efforts will be for nothing.