Despite what Tommy Lee Jones may have us believe in MIB, the remote control was not alien technology and the inventor of it, EUGENE POLLEY died yesterday aged 96.

Polley invented the first wireless TV remote control in 1955/56 for Zenith which used light emission to change the channel by activating a photo-cell at the corner of eth TV screen. Despite the insightful genius that inspired him to create the device, it was rather uninspiringly called the ‘Flash-Matic’ and by today’s standards it’s size and shape could easily be mistaken for a hairdryer, although some might argue it would be easier to find the remote if it still looked like that!

The remote control was initially a luxury device, but now it seems hard to imagine daily life without the ability to change channels and interact wirelessly with a multitude of devices. Having worked in radar detection at the US Dept of Defence during WWII Polley was well placed to take these insights into his civilian engineering career and put them to commercial use. Polley earned 18 US Patents for his inventions which included the video disc (a short-lived predecessor to the DVD) and push-button radio (removing the need to ‘tune’ your radio by turing a dial). Polley’s contribution to the entertainment industry was recognised when he received an Emmy in 1997.

We reward genius and insight such as Polley by granting the inventor a patent – a method of anniouncing the nature of an invention to the world whilst securing a monopoly right right to use it to the inventor and secures an income stream and return on creative investment. Trade Marks are another form of registered intellectual property which grant a monopoly right, as are the much underused Registered Design Rights.


To find out more about how to protect your inventions, brand and design contact Joanne Frears at


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