Author Topic: copyright/patent of electronics designs?  (Read 2128 times)

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Offline AdminTopic starter

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copyright/patent of electronics designs?
« on: February 06, 2008, 04:45:45 PM »
This question is mostly directed to the experts or those with experience in manufacturing boards . . .

Basically, I've developed various circuits throughout my days making robots for the Navy. I would possibly like to manufacture/sell them.

The rules say the Navy owns rights to everything on the condition it can be patented/copyrighted.

So if my work isn't patentable, or profitable from leasing the patent, then I can do whatever I want.

My understanding of patents of electronics, like computer parts, is that it isn't patentable (or at least worth patenting for many reasons). Especially if no new major idea is involved.

Thoughts?

Offline cooldog

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Re: copyright/patent of electronics designs?
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2008, 04:47:36 PM »
you should patent the new board your making
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Offline paulstreats

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Re: copyright/patent of electronics designs?
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2008, 05:50:15 PM »
Its probably not possible to patent an mcu board such as the 'axon' simply because most mcu systems actually use augmented style boards already - you may get a patent pending but its very doubtful.

Im just starting a business in component sales but i also want to produce my own designs, the problem comes with electronics because certain circuits are actually patented such as the circuit to produce a voltage controlled solar powered photovore (popper style).

Its a very grey area and im having to employ a solicitor to check through for myself to make sure that im not breaching any. Although i probably wont apply for any patents because i believe this kind of thing should be open source style.

The most famous electronic patent was for the darlington transistor. Basically darlington patented the idea of using 2 transistors in unison to produce multiple devices. If he had patented the use of more than 1 transistor (not limited to 2) he would have owned the rights to all devices incorporating more than 1 transistor meaning every processor,mcu and nearly every electronic system around today.

I think that the patent offices dont grant patents such as darlingtons any more - probably due to the fact that it would limit designs and future technologies.

If anybody else has any other thoughts can you let me know because i am going to be dealing with the patent area within the next 2 weeks

Offline Asellith

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Re: copyright/patent of electronics designs?
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2008, 08:22:27 AM »
I've been wondering about that kind of stuff myself. I also want to open source my designs. I'm working on a design that I want to produce some day right now. There is nothing new to my design and I am basically build an expanded breakout for another module. Nothing on my module is anything new or amazing. There will be a lot of work that goes into the design but if I produce and sell 25 I'll be happy. It more for fun then actual gain unless it becomes really popular (not likely) then I'll be out a lot because a bigger company can just step in and do another design and out do me. So the question is when is it important to get a patent and what designs don't need one? I think I smell a tutorial brewing :)
Jonathan Bowen
CorSec Engineering
www.corseceng.com

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Re: copyright/patent of electronics designs?
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2008, 09:11:31 AM »
I guess I'll offer my thoughts on obtaining patents since we are on the subject . . .

First, you need to ask yourself if the effort/cost to get something patented is greater than the risk of loss from an imitator. Patents are expensive and takes years.

Secondly, there are other ways to protect your ideas - such as creating a quality brand name for your products. No one will buy from second rate unknown imitators. For example, who would buy my Axon from anyone else other than from me? Exactly.

Then you could also offer other things that a competitor just can't easily copy, such as personalized support.

Electronics tech changes rapidly, making everything outdated within just a few years. This basically gives your competitor just 2 or 3 years to copy your design, and by then it might be too late for them.

Pricing too - price your product below market value. Your competitor will see a much smaller profit gain, and will find it much harder to compete, so will probably not even bother. Your customers will like the lower price as well.

And of course, do all the good things that create a loyal customer, friendly service, prompt replies, etc.

Offline Asellith

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Re: copyright/patent of electronics designs?
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2008, 01:14:43 PM »
The only problem I see with the profit margin is that I can't produce my board for the cost that others with capital can. I have to outsource the manufacturing and even a smaller company that has the capacity to make their own boards and with a little capital can produce my board for a lot less then I can outsource it. My first board is more training for me in PCB design and overall engineering design. So I don't really aim to make much money off it.

On the flip side when is it more beneficial to just patent the idea and design then sell the patent to a major company? With no plans to produce or market it yourself. A friend of mine has several provisional patents that are rather cheap he said around $75. This gives you a year to sell one item. Then it is extended to two I believe been a while since I talked to him about it. This gives you time to plan and produce the item but if it flops or has a short life your still slightly protected without spending the big money on a formal patent. Not sure how this works but might be a better idea.
Jonathan Bowen
CorSec Engineering
www.corseceng.com

Offline paulstreats

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Re: copyright/patent of electronics designs?
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2008, 01:24:43 PM »
I was thinking of cnc cutting copper clad boards and using iron on silk screen to produce boards. It is far too costly to have them made and populated by somebody else

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Re: copyright/patent of electronics designs?
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2008, 01:50:46 PM »
Remember that big companies have to pay engineers between $50k to $100k a year. You don't have to pay anyone ;D

Quote
when is it more beneficial to just patent the idea and design then sell the patent to a major company?
A company is very NOT likely to buy an idea from you. Actually, many companies won't even bother meeting with you or look at your idea - because they are afraid of being sued for taking your idea. They are however much more likely to buy a working prototype . . .

No point in getting a patent if you don't plan to manufacture it, sell the patent . . . or afford to litigate an infringement . . .

Offline CuriousInventor.com

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Re: copyright/patent of electronics designs?
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2008, 06:10:52 AM »
I'll throw my 3 cents from some personal experiences I've heard about.

I think you're running some risk selling something you developed in the Navy if they own copyrighted stuff as well as patentable stuff.  On the other hand, their business is defense; do they really spend a lot of time hunting down inventors profiteering off ideas that may have been thought up during Navy time?

I largely agree with the view that the cost is rarely worthwhile, especially if you're a lone inventor.  If you're friends with a lawyer, you might be able to get a patent for less than $4k, but they can easily go north of $30k.  Supposing you do poney up the money, that doesn't mean you're entirely safe.  While you're trying to ramp up a company and short on cash, a bigger company can come in and sue you regardless of how valid their case is.  These cases can take years and hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in most cases, you'll run out of money before the attacker does.  What's worse, if you have a "closed-source" idea, the company can claim that you're infringing to force you to reveal details of your design.  You'd have to open up to prove otherwise.  Finally, big companies like IBM with treasure chests full of patents can basically claim infringement by anyone in the world.  They use patents as a defense strategy to keep other companies from suing them.  Summary: it's very easy for a big company to obliterate a small company, patent or no patent.

So if you do get a patent, I'd recommend trying to license it to an established company that can play ball.  I don't think it's true that companies won't even meet with you out of fear that you'll sue them for taking their idea.  There are nda's and such that help mitigate that concern, and furthermore, a large company has little to fear from an individual.   

Either way, a provisional costs only $100 or so and let's you say "patent pending"--and this could make a competitor pause long enough to give you time to come to market.

All and all, unless you have something with mass-market appeal, it's probably not worth more than the provisional. 

The philosophy I've gone with for my company is to develop things quickly rather than try to protect something.  Most of our products won't be patentable, and even if they were, there's little chance the ~20 year protection would help when the hobbyist market is completely different in 5 years.

I'd love to hear opposing views.  My anti-patent stance is definitely biased by the market I'm in.

-Scott
 
« Last Edit: February 08, 2008, 06:11:41 AM by CuriousInventor.com »

Offline Rebelgium

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Re: copyright/patent of electronics designs?
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2008, 09:12:54 AM »
My conclusion of all the stories I've heard, is that it's just not worth all the money to get a patent...
And when you have one, you're still not completely protected.

IMHO Curiousinventor is right.
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Offline Asellith

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Re: copyright/patent of electronics designs?
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2008, 10:10:02 AM »
I have noticed something and not sure if this is a patent thing or not. I have seen a lot of companies lately that get bought out by the large companies because they want what ever unique service or idea the company has. The only example I can think of off the top of my head is the Voodoo computers company being bought out by HP. If you can quickly make a name for yourself and offer amazing service a big company might buy you out just for the name. Now this is the exception but thats covered under copy write laws not patent right?

Not sure if thats a goal you can realistically shoot for or not but if I produce something and build a good little company for myself I could totally see myself selling out to a larger company for big bucks and not being to bummed out about it :)
Jonathan Bowen
CorSec Engineering
www.corseceng.com

 


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