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DIY "copies" of designs Answered

Hey guys and girls,

I was wondering - what do people see as "right" when it comes to making DIY versions of designs. Obviously there is some level where it is inspiration, but what about when the design is based around a shape?

For example, this instructable Universal lamp shade polygon building kit clearly uses the same shape as the IQ-light, a fact the author acknowledges.

I want one of these Tote, but I would never pay US$114 for it.

So is it wrong to try to make a copy of the flat pattern? I've been trying to get it done in CAD, not there yet but getting close. What about if I exactly copied by tracing the shape. I have no intentions of selling it, is it still wrong?

Comments

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joshjakus
joshjakus

13 years ago

As the original designer of the UM bags I thought I'd weigh in on the conversation... Yeah, intellectual property on design objects is really complicated. I won't comment on the legality issues (except to say that the above photos taken from branch's site are definitely a copyright violation), but rather how copies feel from the designer's perspective. Basically I think that copies for personal use are a form of flattery and serve to increase awareness of my original work, IF the crafter references me (like jftesser did in her project). It's like a guitarist playing a cover song at a party. But if somebody uses my work to make money or to hurt my business then I'm not happy about it. I just got back from the NY gift show and there I saw 1) work that was clearly influenced by mine but not technically a rip-off, 2) work that was similar to mine but more aggessively promoted, and 3) a blatant copy by a evil company that's going after some of my NY wholesale accounts. I could really lose a lot of sleep over this stuff if I let myself! As for trialex not being willing to pay $114 for my bag... all I can say is you get what you pay for. Those CAD programs are tricky arent they? :) Josh

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 13 years ago

Hello, Joshjakus, welcome to Instructables!

Many members here don't have enough spare income to buy "designer" products all the time, but do have the skills to make their own. That is why Open Source is so popular here.

Maybe, possibly, you could create a simple bag design and make it available through instructables as Open Source, so that others could use and modify the design to fit their needs, and also get your name / brand "out there" amongst the proles?

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joshjakus
joshjakus

Reply 13 years ago

Hmm, interesting idea. In a way the design industry is already open source because of how designers influence eachother (or copy eachother ;) and good ideas tend to spread. But to somehow give a design a life of it's own so that it can be altered/used yet maintain it's original ownership would be different. The only problem I see is manufacturing: very few people in this day and age make things themselves, so influence would be limited. With computer programs, a small number of experts can alter the program and then a large number of users can download it. I wonder if this would be possible with a physical product...

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Kiteman
Kiteman

Reply 13 years ago

Maybe something that doesn't need to be so physically robust, like a desk lamp, or which can be slotted together from flat materials cut from a template.

Knitting? Lots of people knit.

Or a basic object of personal adornment that can be made by fastening together pieces of a flat, flexible material. Users can express themselves by changing proportions and the material they use, as well as their chosen joining method. Maybe a basic shoulder-bag which is basically a cuboid, but which can become a messenger bag or a shopping bag by simply changing proportions, and is made of flat panels, so it could be made small, of sewn silk, large and made of riveted leather, or of old mother-boards "sewn" together with old cables...

You're the designer...

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joshjakus
joshjakus

Reply 13 years ago

another thing that comes to my mind is the old butterick clothing patterns that were around when I was a kid. or maybe the Sears Roebuck kit houses that were sold in the prewar period. but nothing quite beats the flexibility and ease of distribution of a computer program...

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trialex
trialex

Reply 13 years ago

Wow, thanks for the reply, I'm honored. Also, holy crap, I posted that more than a year ago! I have absolutely no doubt that your bags would be better quality than anything I can do, and if I was going to spend $114, I'm sure I would get my money's worth from you. Problem is that I'm not going to. In the end I did work out the pattern - who knew that a feature called an "elliptical fillet" existed? I haven't actually made one (or tried making one from my pattern) - a paper print seems to work properly - but I'm sure there are a million things that would need to be sorted - seam allowances, zipper properties etc. that you have sorted out to be able to bring a product to market. Thanks for your take on it - it's interesting to hear from someone who is actually dealing with actually commercial infringement issues

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joshjakus
joshjakus

Reply 13 years ago

hey, no problem. yeah, the bags are definitely hard to sew even if you have the pattern. in fact, even though I'm a decent sewer I can't really sew them myself: I did the initial prototypes with a stapler and then started working with contract sewing companies very early on.

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ll.13
ll.13

13 years ago

ditto at Nacho. yes, they created it, but I think it's fine if you "copy" the design for yourself. =) (and maybe a few fellow uni. students. :) )

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NachoMahma
NachoMahma

13 years ago

. After a quick search, I still can't tell if it's legal or not. As far as I can tell, it's OK if it is for your own use, but don't hold me to that. . "Nacho's Rules For Life" says it's OK, as long as you're not selling/giving away/distributing/claiming as your own.

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Goodhart
Goodhart

Reply 13 years ago

In addition to not selling it, it may be prudent not to "brag about" having duplicated the article, as the originator is looking for you to purchase their version and this amounts to nearly the same thing as copying music "for one's own enjoyment". . . legal ?

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fungus amungus
fungus amungus

Reply 13 years ago

That's different. You're copying the files exactly. This is more like playing the song on your own.

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Goodhart
Goodhart

Reply 13 years ago

yes, without having bought it from the originator. I realize there is a fine line, and it would probably never get pushed....I would never duplicate a design protected by Patent even for personal use, but I also am not going to call anyone "bad" for doing so; thus my use of words like "may be prudent" etc. :-)

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whiteoakart
whiteoakart

13 years ago

I am a product designer by profession and deal with this kind of thing quite a bit. First of all, it is unlikely that there is a patent on the appearance of this product. From what I can see, there is nothing really patentable about it. It is simply a bag with a zipper. It is possible that there are patents on the manufacturing process, or material usage, but these would not affect you making one for yourself. On the other hand, there is definitely a copyright on the design. This affects who has the 'right to copy' the design. Copyrights are very easy to get around. You just make it slightly different. These legal protections are made to keep someone from mass-marketing a knock-off. As you are making one for yourself, without the intention of production, no one will be sending the legal department to your door. In a very strict sense, however, no one should make a knock-off, even for personal use, until the copyright expires. The designer worked hard to bring this concept to production and should be compensated if you want to own one. But almost no one is that strict, excluding Disney, and I would say that it is culturally acceptable and quite common practice to create your own version. Again, if yours is even a little different, then you haven't violated the copyright anyway.

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trialex
trialex

14 years ago

OK cool, well, I'll keep working on it. I can't get the shape to work yet, but hopefully soon.

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westfw
westfw

14 years ago

There is something called a "design patent" that covers things like this (a lot of product patents are actually design patents rather than "invention" patents.) I'm not sure exactly what the legal implications are. The polygon lampshade things made me a bit uncomfortable...

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ewilhelm
ewilhelm

Reply 14 years ago

The point of a patent, and the reason one is given a monopoly for a period of time after the patent is approved, is education. Patents are intended to educate. So, for non-commercial purposes, you are permitted (I would say encouraged) to duplicate patented works. If someone pulled the patent for a popular and still patented drug and showed us how they made it, it would be completely legal. The patent itself is public record and a well-documented how-to even if it is full of legalize. As for the bag, you should definitely make your own. I seriously doubt that it even could be patented; I'm sure you could find prior art.

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ewilhelm
ewilhelm

Reply 14 years ago

Remember to document the process so you can post an Instructable, of course!

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westfw
westfw

Reply 14 years ago

"fair use" is mostly a part of copyright law (and trademark, according to your link), but it's NOT part of patent law...

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fungus amungus
fungus amungus

Reply 14 years ago

Ah, true. But still, if this is one person copying a design solely for his or her own use without any money to be made off of the design through sale or otherwise, then it should be fine.

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trebuchet03
trebuchet03

14 years ago

When you say "wrong" - do you mean from a legal stand point?

If you're just going for personal use (that is, not selling for profit) -- hands down there's no problem. I'll bet that you can even sell it without a problem ;) It has never been wrong to make something you like yourself ;)


It is interesting that you've asked this question. With so many organizations against making copies of things (think DMCA), tangible goods are being questioned too.