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How do I publish an Instructable and can make sure my work is not stolen for commercial products? Answered

A nice member noticed an induction heater "kit" on Ebay and commented about it.
After a lot of digging I found some pictures and technical details on the web - Google translate might be funny at times but was a real help for my bad chinese skills...
Turned out the shematics for this heater are identical to my design.
Sure they use a different mosfets and and create a nice looking circuit board for all but it does not change the fact that my design drives it.
One chinese wholeseller is selling them in 500pcs bulk.

Current problem:
I am working on the next generation of my induction heater based on an induction cooktop.
Since the power levels are much higher and more option possible I think it will be a great project loved by a lot of people.
But I feel reluctant to publish it in a detailed form that can be used by everyone to re-create it as I fear it will end up on Ebay as well.
So far I can't even estimate how much profit some chinese guy is making while laughing at me and for obvious reasons I would like to prevent that from happening to 2.0 as well...

Is there any way to protect my designs or to get hands on the chinaman to strangle some money back out of him?



Best Answer 3 years ago

Eli Whitney invented and patented the cotton gin. But it was a very popular invention so many people just copied it. Companies copied it also. Eli did file legal cases against numerous companies. But because it was considered to be such an important invention, changing the way cotton was used even and helping to launch the textile industry, courts and authorities delayed all of his legal cases (unofficially of course) until his patent ran out. The man received almost nothing for an invention that changed the world. And this was before China was involved in anything like that.

If you work for a company and develop a new invention, the company usually gets the patent to your work and profits from it. But since they were paying you when you invented it they can and do claim ownership and they get to keep what they want from it.

If you invent something yourself, for yourself, and companies like it they will either try and force you to sell to them cheap or simply take it for themselves and and make as much off of it as they can until they get in trouble for it, if ever.

It is a pretty sad situation. Those that are innovative and actually have the insight to invent things that can be important are often more interested in making the world a better place than they are in getting wealthy. Many companies that manufacturer stuff are only interested in making the most money they can no matter what it destroys to do it, weather it be the environment or the lives of the people who's innovative ideas are often the basis for their very ability to make anything to start with. It would be an interesting book, except for the fact that its been in print and films many times as a topic. The real question is what can be done to actually change the situation.

Here is a prospective title for you book:

"Screwed again mate, the Downunder version."


Answer 3 years ago

Although the other posts all have some vital points I really like the idea of writing a book about ROFL
Would not mind teaming up with the chinaman either if a few bucks or at least recognition comes out of it but so far it seems to be impossible to find the actual source or "creator".
And then again my chinese is not the best these days...
Thanks for the comments and suggestion anyway guys, will have a decent thought about how to proceed from here on.


3 years ago

Yes. Don't publish them online... :(

Of course you could sell them, which would probably stop that person from stealing it, but that doesn't really make sense.

There are people that have made hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars by stealing 3D Printing designs/plans from Thingiverse, and selling them on eBay.



3 years ago

Induction heating has been around for quite a long time, how are you certain that your circuit is unique? I would be blown away if some Chinese firm had found your Instructable and copied it. Also by using different mosfets its possible they would be protected in the case you had the proper protections in place, but I'm not totally sure how granular those protections are.

To actually address the question, the copyright protection on an Instructable prevents the Instructable itself being used in a commercial manner, or whatever else based on how strict you set your rights. You would need a patent in order to protect the actual product. So the answer is: file and receive a patent first.

You have essentially zero recourse with the original, on the slim chance they actually used your circuit, without patents in place. Even then, think of all the knock-offs and clones that come out of china. If Apple can't stop it from happening, even with every legal right and protection, then you can't hope to without those rights and protections (or even with them if we're honest).

In your comments on your original project you say "Only too bad that I am the one missing out on the money they make". You are not missing out on money to be made because of a Chinese knock off. You're missing out because you've made no attempt to capture any of that money. If you feel there is a market for V2 then don't publish an Instructable. Instead perfect your design, put it into production, and capture that market yourself. Alternatively you could try contacting the Chinese seller and working out a deal with them to sell the rights to your V2 design.


Answer 3 years ago

I would not mind for a normal circuit design but I literall spent months working out how to eliminate the center tap on the work coil while still getting more power out.
Before I posted my Ible there was nothing to be found on the web utilizing ZVS circuits for single wound coils.
And even without that as I am sure I did not find every single website writing about this - their layout and parts use is a dead giveaway of the copy.
In my selected license it clearly state not for any commercial use.
Sorry to say but I am really not impressed and right now not even sure if I will publish another Ible on an interesting topic in the future.
Especially not how to configure the old induction heater circuit to drive a powerful tesla coil and certainly not the new Ible about using an induction cooktop as a very powerful heater.

If you are on a budget and with limited time there is little to no chance to commercialise or protect anything.
For a patent you need to pay a lawyer some decent money to make sure that all vital things and variations are covered - I can't afford this, neither to start an international copyright claim to fight the seller and Ebay.
I don't mind sharing with every private tinkerer out there if it is in line with the license but seeing my circuit on Ebay is a real stink and currently pulls me down mood wise into unknown regions.


Answer 3 years ago

That's not how copyright works. Trademarks protect brands and brand identities, patents protect inventions (this is where the design of your circuit falls), and copyright, to generalize, covers most everything else that you might consider "content" or "creative expression"

Lets say they did see your guide and used it to create their product. The non-commercial part (and every other part for that matter) of the license you chose protects only the guide itself, not the individual pieces of it. They can't republish all or part of your guide or pictures without following the license but they are free to take the ideas presented and do with them what they will, however they want. A great rule of thumb is: if you think an idea/invention has commercial viability and you are willing to at least attempt to pursue that then do not post a detailed guide of how that idea/invention works on the internet before procuring proper IP protection. I know it sucks to realize in hindsight that you missed an opportunity but your legal ship has sailed on V1. You currently have no legal claim to the circuit design (patent, copyright, or otherwise) and even if "design copyright" applied in this scenario I don't think even being rich and having great lawyers would be able to prove beyond doubt that they specifically saw your design before creating theirs.

That's all the worst but can't be helped so lets focus on the future and moving forward.

1) You can absolutely file patents without a lawyer or any other legal representation. It can be a tough road to hoe but worth it if there is actual commercial viability.

2) See above about posting unprotected IP.

3) If you want to pursue your ideas as a product then I'm 100% behind not posting here, or anywhere, but if you're not going to do that why not share your ideas with others? It's like taking your ball and going home when you start losing on the playground. Nobody wins and everybody's bitter. Enter them in some contests, you might actually get something material out of it and at the very least it feels good to see people applaud your work and take an interest in it.

4) Commercializing is becoming easier and easier every year. Need funding? "Little guys" like you and I are raising funds for their products through services like Kickstarter, etc every day. How about legal help? All available al la carte and online. I know several people, some with nothing more than high school educations and their savings, that have taken their ideas and commercialized. It's hard work and risky but you can't make a buck without either of those and "normal" people do it every day.

I know that's kind of "tough love" but I say it in hopes it either brings a little piece of mind, or at least closure, to the V1 or spurs you on to take the plunge for V2 or whatever is next. Good Luck!

P.S. You might consider cordially contacting the company selling the alleged V1 and see if they would be interested in partnering with you for an improved version. You'd be surprised how responsive people can be if they stand to profit as well.


3 years ago

You HAVE design copyright automatically. So sue them.....

That said, as BWR says, unless you have a new wrinkle to it, induction heater design isn't new and novel.

Yeah right. Sorry, but thats IP protection for you - there isn't any, unless you have VERY deep pockets.