Can this be a coincidence? Do they look like two independent designs?

I came across this kit when I was browsing the web. What surprised me is the uncanny resemblance to my design published here in Instructables.

I'd like to know what you guys think about those two designs. Do they look like they are created by two independent designers? Can someone design a product so similar to another without copying the other?

(The kit in the front part of the picture is taken from Eastern Voltage Research website. The photo is photoshopped by them since yesterday to remove holes on the end of the PCB which accomodate home made battery clips.)

Please post your opinions! Thank you!

Picture of Can this be a coincidence? Do they look like two independent designs?
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mikolynn5 years ago
Of course it's a copy, but is the waythat ever the "copyers" do, copy, but changing the original a little bit to bit quite different and if they use a copiright, a judge can't say is the same because is a n improved design and blah blah blah...
iceng5 years ago
"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" and annoying.

Since this involves a circuit one of my students designed in our product development seminar this spring / summer, i feel obligated to provide an answer.

As far physical similarity goes, yes, i agree they do look very similar in appearance. However, the size of the board, as others have said, is dictated purely by the power source - a single AA battery. In fact, the battery footprint itself was created from a digikey library file and this simply dictated its size. The actual circuit came right out of an electronics application book that the designing student had. Its just a simple two transistor boost circuit. The name Joule Thief itself is nothing new either - its just a generic name for any type of single battery LED circuit. Yeah, i could the text being in the same place is a coincidence, but where else can you put the text? Either top or bottom of the board typically.

As far as the extra holes on the ends go, they were actually from an alternative battery clip arrangement we were going to use as the battery clips we did use (BK-82 i think?) were not in stock at the time, so i asked my students to utilize an alternate style AA clip just in case.

But in the end our summer program is over and the products are removed from the website anyways as we specialize in high voltage equipment, not LED equipment, so there was never really any long term plans to attempt to sell these.

I have looked at LEDARTIST other products and he has some very nice and impressive products. I could see if one of those advanced LED kits were copied there could be an issue as they are unique enough. But in this case, its just a simple battery circuit powering two LEDs. How many ways are there really to do this?

In fact another guy is selling another Joule Thief using the same exact circuit as well. The infamous two transistor boost circuit.

So yet another coicidence.

In closing, hope this clears up the confusion.

Kiteman5 years ago

The gross layout is similar, but that is hardly surprising when the circuit is restricted by the dimensions of the power source.

The detailed layout is quite different.
jeff-o Kiteman5 years ago
Their design has eight components (not including the switch) to your 12. That's a much simpler design. They crammed it onto a board not much larger than a AA battery. It's hard for it not to look similar when you do that.

I'd say it's possible they were influenced or inspired by your design, but reworked it to make it easier/cheaper to produce.
Are you looking for a reason to sue or not be sued?

Either way you look at it there is enough of a difference in the design and function of the 2 to prevent any legal issues. You have the more complex and overall better design while they just have the on/off switch. The fact that they have there LEDs in the same position on a similar kind of board is irreverent. Or if there model came first then you went above and beyond and made the project your own.

There is nothing new about any joule thief LED light. Many commercial LED flashlights use a joule thief in there design. They all use the same LEDs, resistors, transistors and inductors to achieve the same goal. I've got a Husky key chain light, Maglight LED replacement, Energizer headlamp and several other LED lights with very similar Joule Thief layouts in them.

With some schematics you can't help but arrive at similar PCB layouts as someone else building a similar circuit.
ledartist (author)  mpilchfamily5 years ago
No this is not a legal question, or question about the similarity of the circuits.
I'm simply asking if it's possible for two people to come up with such similar physical designs without looking at other's...

People have come up with whole theories of nature and mathematics in parallel... One little circuit, dead easy.
ledartist (author)  steveastrouk5 years ago
Why, then the person in question actually agreed to pull the product off his website? (Instead he photoshopped the photos, though...) 

Guilty conscience?
Like I said, its amazing what CAN happen in parallel. Its also looks like a rip-off to me too.
bwrussell5 years ago
I think it is only natural to make that physical design due to the shape of the battery. Also they claim to have been making these for a while as part of educational programs so it's not hard to see a scenario where they think your design mimics theirs.
ledartist (author) 5 years ago
I do not claim to have developed the Joule Thief circuit.
It's the esthetics (or "look & feel) of my design that makes the difference. Kind of like Windows vs. Mac, where look & feel is not something that you can patent, that doesn't mean you should not credit the original.

Burf5 years ago
Given that two persons using virtually the same technology to accomplish an identical task would, independently, come up with solutions that are quite similar. That said, "reverse engineering" of an existing product isn't uncommon either.
rickharris5 years ago
The circuit is well documented.

A PCB design that allows it to be mounted on the battery is going to be very restricted in it's layout.

Where as they may have seen your concept and thought it was a good idea - to me - this doesn't look like a direct rip off just the same idea implemented in a similar manner.