[Noisebridge-discuss] advice on PCB patents?

Josh V josh at foolishproducts.com
Sun Apr 30 17:40:44 UTC 2017

That's right.  Existing open hardware licenses all basically seem to
invalidate patent protections.  You also have to be really careful with
your software release to make sure that it also doesn't invalidate your
patent claim.

This only allows for "MIT" style licencing though.  I don't know of a good
system for "copy-left" hardware releases.

To date the best that I've seen proposed for defending small companies
under the existing patent system is to have each company patent their work,
and then licence it to a pool, which grants free use to all the companies
in the pool, and then uses the collective strength to defend against larger

Such a system however suffers from the fact that at present there still
doesn't seem to be a great way to share schematics in such a system either,
and it also seems somewhat tricky to get it to reach critical mass where
the average hardware project sees value in giving up part of thier ip in
exchange for access to the pool.


To answer the original q though because I'm in the middle of looking into
this, seems like lawyers fees are something like 10-15k in SF or NYC all
told (for an american patent), but you can save a few thousand if you look
in other cities and if you take the time to write up a thourough first
draft yourself.  By my understanding, within the existing system all this
really buys is a bit of leverage in showing your project to larger
companies, but I don't really know anything so don't take my word for it.
Money is dumb.

Patent lawyers seem like they generally like helping small projects, so one
way to go in finding one is to start locally and then start asking for
referrals given the nature of your project.

On Apr 29, 2017 4:33 PM, "Marc Juul" <juul at labitat.dk> wrote:

On Saturday, April 29, 2017, Josh V <josh at foolishproducts.com> wrote:

> 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).
Not sure what you're referring to here. In the U.S. you have one year to
patent after public disclosure. In some other places any public disclosure
before patenting makes patenting impossible. Some open licenses include
language about patents and others do not. As far as i know there is no
reason why you couldn't patent your stuff and then make it open though that
openness could be questionable unless the open license explicitly grants
right to use your patent, which then would probably make your patent fairly
useless except for the purposes of putting the prior art in the uspto

>  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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