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Ethics of kit making
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Ethics of kit making

by solexious on Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:22 am

Hello all,

So I'm fairly cautious when it comes to making and selling kits, mostly in that I'm worried about people thinking I have copied or stolen their idea and monopolised on it.

Its this reason that currently the only kit I sell is a derivative of a mates design that I improved on and sold with his blessing.

What I would like to know from peeps here is, when is it ok, and when isn't it, to make a kit?

A real world example for me at the moment was a idea I had for turning your arduino into a e-pet by making a shield that has a screen, buttons and speaker. I also had plans to make a stand alone kit that rolled in the arduino for compact-ness. But it hit a bump when I couldn't find a distributor for the screens. Now I have, but at the same time this: started being sold on tindie (where I also sell my kits), its pretty much similar. I would still like to make then sell my kit, but i'm worried I will be seen to be copying (even though I designed and planned the kit months before I ever saw the gamby) this kit maker. I don't want to ask for their blessing to sell my own, as that to me will look much more like I'm trying to 'rip them off'.

It seems its hard to have an idea for kits and products that haven't been thought of or made before as either just a project or a kit, but if at the time of conception or design you don't know about previous peoples work, would you worry about being called out to have plagiarized their work/idea?


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Joined: Wed May 19, 2010 6:58 pm

Re: Ethics of kit making

by adafruit_support_mike on Tue Oct 09, 2012 4:00 pm

When you're dealing with Open Hardware, that question has a clear and specific answer: you're free to use the design however you want, which includes making and selling flat-out copies of the original. It's a point of courtesy in the community to give credit where it's due, and good citizens of the OH community have a tendency to hunt down the people whose designs they want to use and ask for a blessing before releasing their own version of the work.. pretty much what you've done with your friend's design.

Bottom line though, 'Open' means 'Open' and anyone who releases a design under those terms had darn well better know and accept the consequences.

When it comes to parallel development of non-Open hardware, well, that happens. If you didn't buy someone else's product, reverse engineer it, then hork out a clone simply to make a fast buck off someone else's R&D, your conscience should be clear.

. . . if at the time of conception or design you don't know about previous peoples work, would you worry about being called out to have plagiarized their work/idea?

No. By definition, it's impossible to have copied something you didn't know about at the time.

If someone wants to accuse you of ripping off their work, they're making a claim. That means they have an obligation to support that claim, and the first thing they have to do is prove that you actually did see and copy the work in question. Just saying, "yours is like mine so you must have copied me" isn't good enough.

In this case, the term 'e-pet' makes me think of the Tamogotchi, which Bandai released in 1996. It's about sixteen years too late to worry about who came up with that idea first, and "both works in question derive from a common body of work that the plaintiff does not own" is a standard defense against copyright/patent claims.

Instead of focusing on the similarities between your kit and anything else in the same space, focus on the things that make your idea unique. That's your 'market discriminant', and is what makes your kit worth buying instead of another. Not having a clear market discriminant would stop me from releasing a product faster than "people might say I'm copying" would.
When you void a product warranty, you give up your right to sue the manufacturer if something goes wrong and accept full responsibility for whatever happens next. And then you truly own the product.

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Re: Ethics of kit making

by solexious on Fri Oct 12, 2012 11:33 pm

Thanks so much for your reply, I think I will be a bit less worried about all this and tackle this problem if/when it becomes a real issue.

Onwards and upwards!

Posts: 19
Joined: Wed May 19, 2010 6:58 pm