[Noisebridge-discuss] advice on PCB patents?

Josh V josh at foolishproducts.com
Sat Apr 29 16:48:28 UTC 2017


Hi All,

Thanks for having this discussion.  I'm going to jump in, as I've also been
trying to make sense of this boondoggle, and perhaps this is a good outlet
to test my thinking.

First off, let's establish that property is theft
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOTs3nRVfV0>, and that the existing system
has been gamed to a point where it's a parody of itself.

Secondly, let's establish that not open sourcing your software establishes
an adversarial relationship between you and the people who are hiring you
to make a thing for them, impinges on their freedom, and creates bad habits.

After you've shipped your thing, "do what tho wilt shall be the whole of
the law <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thelema>", or at least, thats how I
feel it should work personally.  Fuck that keurig/juicero/... late
capitalist noise.

On the other hand, it would be brash to totally ignore the reality of the
world in which we live, lest you get eaten alive.

To this end, the legal ethic which seems appropriate is that if an
organization with orders of magnitude more access to resources than you
decides they are interested in your work, they should also have to pay for
it (on the order of what it would have cost them to develop the project in
house).  These large organizations have already committed to VC fueled
growth, and it seems like the only reasonable way to engage with them is on
their terms.  The language that these organizations speak is tied up with
the patent system, and being able to say that you've applied for a patent
creates legal uncertainty for them, which gives you leverage to extract
from extractive organizations.

To this end, my feeling is that if your circuit is sufficiently complicated
(i.e. something you've been working on for a year+), my understanding
(happy to be convinced otherwise) is that open source hardware leaves too
much on the table.  It doesn't actually increase individual freedom of the
end users too much (as with circuit boards with lots of surface mount IC's
there's only so much rework anyone can do, even if they have the
schematic).  Not releasing the schematics is bad for individuals interested
in learning/playing - but you can encourage them to contact you directly if
they are curious in reproducing the results for themselves.

Not releasing the hardware, however, seem to be another requirement of
acquiring a patent on a circuit (at least so far as I understand).  Patent
in hand, you then have the leverage to band together with other similarly
minded organizations (like the effort described here:
https://www.adafruit.com/patents), in a way that you wouldn't if you simply
posted the schematics online.

idk.  It's also an expensive and complicated road, and by the time people
have already started selling lots of copies of your design, you've probably
already distributed lots of versions yourself, and so in lots of cases, it
does seem like the suggestions everyone else gave are best?

I'm kinda rambling, please tell me I'm wrong about things.

josh
foolzone.com/lets-get-lost
whoaboard.com
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