Hi everyone. I have a question about the legal side of pcb designs that are clones. How has Purple gotten away with cloning the 1176? How about Retro and their sta-level and other products? Drip is also in the same boat. I don't want to start a debate on right and wrong and all that bs. What I'm looking for is legal standpoints on how gear like this can be accepted or rejected. How close is too close for the law? What does copyright have to do with it? What does Patent have to do with it? What are the work-arounds? Looking for facts, not opinions. Thanks.
where companies must have gone wrong is not copywriting the look , electronic and cosmetic 'packaging' and 'likeness' of the item. That can be protected for 100 years in the US. So when companies steal the 'likeness' of product even though the circuitry is no longer patented (since that is 20 years term) the likeness cannot be used if the packaging was copywritten. So in other words if say Neve was an America company and had they copy-written the vertical 'look' color scheme, Marconi knob style module 'likeness' of the 1073 or however you describe it , all the cloners could be sued for copyright infringement. Well actually only one company stoops that low to steal the actual look too.
Many companies only patten the design and that expires as we all know. But often they do not copyright the 'identity' That's where the problem is. Many companies I've worked for do both. But it is very expensive and takes time so often they don't bother. Since technology life is so short , Especially electronics design. 20 years for an electronics design is archaic by some standards. But as we know as gear heads, older designs and components they used have the mojo.
See companies like Fender Gibson etc... must have been smart , if you build and sell guitars with a Strat headstock shape or if you build an Les Paul guitar with body and Les Paul style head stock you can be sued based on 'likeness' Apparently these audio gear companies didn't bother to cover that aspect. They probably only copyrighted or trademarked the logo. In some case not even the name. Since say '312' or '1073' are stolen all the time. They forgot to copyright that stuff or didn't bother. It's a shame, too many people profiting off someone elses creativity.
my understanding is that you cannot copyright a "circuit" but you can copyright the "artwork". now, artwork in this case has a special meaning, its kind of a screwed up law, but the traces on a pcb are considered "artwork". so if you copied the pcb layout, you would be stealing the "artwork". if you took the schematic, made your own pcb that looked nothing like the original, then you would be fine.
my understanding is that the aesthetics are also under copyright, ie, the layout of the knobs, the names of the knobs ie "drive, pressure, honk" etc and the graphical design of "outside" of the device. the name of the original is obviously also under copyright.
my understanding is that it's not ok to say "this is an API2500 in a new box", but people skate very close to the line by saying "based on .." etc. or, they tell you its a "clone" behind closed doors. or, its just "known" thats its a clone and people talk about it on forums.
this is why you see identical circuits, in what appear to be completely different products.
Robertshaw pretty much nailed it, the one factor with most of the clones of the "classics" is that the manufactures felt the new stuff was such an improvement that nobody would want the old stuff ! So who cares? Also ask any copyright or patten lawyer about how much it will cost you to fought no less win such a lawsuit!