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Patents / Freedom

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by Robyn, Apr 29, 2013.

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  1. Robyn

    Robyn

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    Apr 17, 2013
    Hey everyone,

    I am beginning to be able to put some interesting circuits together as my newbie knowledge grows and that makes me dream about the day when I'll be the next Robert Moog :)

    I have actually been reading patents (among other things) to learn how electronic circuits work. It seems like there are a lot of patented ideas out there, even at a pretty basic level so I am wondering how this unfolds...

    Example: http://www.google.com/patents/US3475623
    This a patent from Moog for a high pass / low pass filter using base to emitter resistance.

    - Does this mean that if I ever was to design and sell a machine that uses the base to emitter resistance of bipolar transistors to achieve a high pass / low pass I would have to pay royalties?

    - How far from the original circuit do you have to go? Is it a matter of changing some components values or is the whole range of circuits that can be built on the same principle covered?

    - Not that I intend to steal other peoples ideas but it seems like at this level and especially in analogue electronics there is not a million ways to do things efficiently. And electronics has been around for more than a hundred years so isn't every implementation of a low pass filter somehow patented already?

    I am very worried!
     
  2. Raven Luni

    Raven Luni

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    Oct 15, 2011
    Easy answer: dont worry. There is always more than 1 way to skin a cat. Also, the whole patent system will collapse in the near future if people keep abusing it the way they already are.

    Knowledge is free. Take what you can, use what you need, share what you will, sell what you can get away with and dont tell anyone who doesnt need to know :)
     
  3. BobK

    BobK

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    Jan 5, 2010
    Patents expire after 17 or 20 years (depending on when filed.) So, no, you would not have to pay royalites on the Moog patent you reference.

    You are in violation of the patent if you use any of the claims it contains. Patents are generally written as broadly as possible. I did not read the claims on the Moog patent, but I would be very surprised if it covered only specific values of resistors and capacitors.

    Bob
     
  4. BobK

    BobK

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    Jan 5, 2010
    I think you should preface that advice with the "I am not a lawyer" disclaimer :)

    Bob
     
  5. Robyn

    Robyn

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    Apr 17, 2013
    Thank you so much for this beautiful answer :)

    Thanks Bob (Moog? ;)).

    Edit:


    Hahahahahah!
     
  6. BobK

    BobK

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    Jan 5, 2010
    In my dreams!

    But, in my younger days, I invented a voltage controlled sawtooth generator using just a BJT as a constant current source and a UJT relaxation oscillator. It was quite amazingly good in linearity considering how simple it was.

    Bob
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2013
  7. Raven Luni

    Raven Luni

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    Oct 15, 2011
    No worries - It's covered by the 'what you can get away with' part :p
     
  8. Robyn

    Robyn

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    Apr 17, 2013
    Don't tell me too much :D
     
  9. quantumtangles

    quantumtangles

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    Dec 19, 2012
    The general rule is that an idea is not novel or patentable if a 'factman' (translating badly from the original German), being a reasonably skilled electronic engineer, could have thought of it (based on the state of knowledge in the relevant area at the time).

    In other words, if any reasonably skilled electronic engineer could have come up with the idea, then you cannot patent it.

    Having said that, almost all patent applications are based on novel arrangements of prior art components. Indeed I cannot think of any that are not. So it is in the process of rearranging the components or ideas of other people into novel systems that inventions come into being. It is all about prior art + innovation or rearrangement.

    In my experience, good inventors (and I do not claim to fall under this category) are not simply trying to make a fast buck. Invariably, they are focused on solving a specific problem and sometimes do so.

    I cannot begin to tell you how complex the patent system is. As well as being an engineer, I have practised law for many years (though not in the area of Intellectual Property). Patent applications are damn complicated even for engineers who are also lawyers. You really do need training and experience in the Patent subcategory of IP Law, which I lack.

    In 2010, a machine I invented was built in a university laboratory...before it became apparent that it could not supply mathematically predicted benefits. The maths was complicated, but essentially I made a mistake. I withdrew the patent straight away...to prevent a misguided idea being published. Heaven knows, there are enough misguided ideas around already.

    My latest patent application is in a different area of electronic engineering, and so that you know...it is really hard work getting everything in order for the patent office, especially if you have made improvements to the idea over time (but still seek priority from the date of first application).

    My advice?...get a patent agent to do the heavy lifting (if you can afford one)...and on an even more practical note....when I die, don't let my wife sell my equipment for what I told her I paid for it.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2013
  10. CocaCola

    CocaCola

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    Apr 7, 2012
    Patents are only as good as your pockets are deep...

    The Patent system IMO has become a joke, companies patent everything and anything they can to hinder competition, not to protect their core ideas and property... Apple has become notorious for this, and because they have deep pockets they are able to play the game and squish almost all that dare to challenge the patent even if it's completely invalid or not even their idea to start with...
     
  11. quantumtangles

    quantumtangles

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    Dec 19, 2012
    Patent trolls (companies who buy as many arguably viable patents as they can, so they can demand money from legitimate businesses in the future), are an ugly development.

    Large companies, as you say, have begun using patent law to prevent legitimate competition, because specialised lawyers are expensive and large companies (unlike start ups) can afford them.

    But what are the alternatives to applying for a patent?

    Dave the Australian engineer of EEVblog fame, is very much against the entire patent system. He sees it as antiquated and otiose (due to creative commons licences). He also makes the argument that a CCL allows millions of people access to your ideas and that this is a good thing.

    I am not sure about this. If you design circuits (and sell PCBs) then it may make a lot of sense to protect your intellectual property using a creative commons licence and let the world know about it.

    But I think there are still some discrete areas of invention where a creative commons licence affords much less protection than expensive, drawn out...tedious patent applications.

    However, I come with a reprogrammable processor (as standard), so by all means reprogram me in this regard.
     
  12. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

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    Jan 21, 2010
    Software patents are certainly a bad thing. And I say that even though my name appears as a "co-inventor" on a software patent.
     
  13. BobK

    BobK

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    Yep, like a rectangular shpaed phone with rounded corners. That is so non-obvious. What a genius it took to come up with that!

    bob
     
  14. CocaCola

    CocaCola

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    Apr 7, 2012
    I'm utterly baffled at how a patent was issued to Apple for this,several phone manufactures had near full screen rectangular smart phones with rounded corners out on the market before the 1st iPhone was released and before that patent was granted as Apple's property :confused:

    Another one of those ideas that Apple 'borrowed' from others and for some reason was given ownership of under the patent system so they could hinder competition...
     
  15. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

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    Jan 21, 2010
    Come on Bob, NOBODY had ever imagined a hand-held device with rounded corners before Apple
     
  16. CocaCola

    CocaCola

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    Apr 7, 2012
    [​IMG]
     
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