An anonymous source tipped us off that one of the inventions backed by the investors on the BBCs Dragons' Den had run into patent troubles.

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Dragons dented: Patent doubt over plastic ties that won over tycoons


With an order worth 36million for an invention that won the backing of a couple of Dragons' Den entrepreneurs, it looked like Andrew Harsley was made for life.

His Rapstrap a reusable polyurethane band that can tie up bin bags, cables, plants and saplings was lauded by tycoons Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan as the most successful invention seen on the BBC show.

Andy Harsley

Andrew Harsley with his 36m 'invention' after his  pitch on Dragons' Den

But now it seems Mr Harsley may not have quite tied up all the loose ends over his idea and that could put his millionaire backers' hopes of a lucrative return in jeopardy.

After his triumph on Dragons' Den, Mr Harsley's former firm, Millepede, told the Patent Office his 'next generation cable tie' might not be as revolutionary as thought. Millepede claimed the Rapstrap infringed the patent of its own plastic cable tie, called the Quickstrip, an early version of which Mr Harsley had helped develop a decade ago.

Andrew Harsley

Mr Harsley delivers his Rapstrap pitch to the Den

An examiner at the office, officially known as the Intellectual Property Office, has agreed. John Butterworth, of Millepede, said the Rapstrap was almost identical to the Quickstrip.

He added: 'I was staggered when I turned on the TV and saw Andrew claiming this product as his own. In my opinion, there is nothing unique about it.' Mr Butterworth said that, as the IPO's report was an 'opinion' and not legally binding, the firm was taking legal advice to resolve the matter once and for all.

Mr Harsley had told Bannatyne and Caan there was nothing like his reusable strips on the market and the Dragons paid 150,000 for a 50 per cent share in the company which markets Rapstrap.

The 36-year-old, from Grantham, Lincolnshire, applied for a patent for Rapstrap before he left Millepede in 2004. He is still waiting for a decision for Europe, although he has been granted a patent in China.

Millipede tie

Spot the difference: The Rapstrap, left, and the Quickstrip, right

After winning the 36million contract last year, Mr Harsley told how he spent 20 years developing the idea after first thinking of it as boy while putting out the rubbish.

And he insists he has done nothing wrong. Mr Harsley said the Rapstrap had several unique features over Millepede's product not considered by the examiner and he would 'gladly see Millepede in court'.

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