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Old 26th October 2012, 07:12 PM   #1
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Default Circuits: Commercial arrangements

If someone sets up a firm, and sells an audio product (such as an audio amplifier) does the circuit need to be soley of the firms design?
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Old 26th October 2012, 07:21 PM   #2
DF96 is offline DF96  England
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No, but they should have full permission from the copyright owner of the circuit. Otherwise they could be sued for damages due to copyright infringement. If you want to clone someone else's circuit then you need to be somewhere copyright is not taken seriously, such as China. Even there it would in theory be unlawful.
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Old 26th October 2012, 07:27 PM   #3
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I guess some parts of circuits would be patentable also. And it would be a breach of patent to use that patented circuit.

If a firm has the Baxendall arrangement in tone control, does that mean a payment has to be made to the Baxendall estate? I guess yes unless copyright or patent has expired.
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Old 26th October 2012, 07:35 PM   #4
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Another question: Do equipment manufacturers sell licences regarding their circuits? I mean, if you had an idea, is it quite normal for a manufacturer to grant a licence regarding the circuit?
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Old 26th October 2012, 07:38 PM   #5
DF96 is offline DF96  England
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Provided they are not patented you should be OK with standard circuits. I think copyright law (in the UK) uses common sense: in the case of a book you can't do someone for using the same sentence as you (as there may be only a few ways in good English to express a particular idea), but start copying paragraphs and the owner will be after you. Same idea for circuits. You can have a Baxandal tone control, but be careful of exact copying of someone else's Baxandall tone control.

The best way to ensure no copyright infringement is to design it yourself: copyright is about 'works' - something requiring effort to produce. If you did the work, then you did not copy someone else's work. If you happen to have an emitter follower with the same resistor values as someone else you may be OK, but if significant chunks of your circuit are identical to someone else's then you may have to explain this remarkable coincidence to their legal team.
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Old 26th October 2012, 07:42 PM   #6
DF96 is offline DF96  England
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Someone may be willing to grant a licence, but they are under no obligation to do so.

I think there may be the possibility that if a particular idea is needed for a major area of important technology then a court may insist on a reasonable licence arrangement, but this only really applies to the Microsofts/Apples/Googles of this world. Unlikely to apply to an audio amp.
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Old 26th October 2012, 07:51 PM   #7
jcx is offline jcx  United States
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copyright only prevents exact mechanical/automated copies of physical expressions of an idea - not the idea itself - so a photograph of a pcb, photocopy of a schematic in a users manual is copyright protected but you can redraw by hand, do your own layout of the exact same amp circuit and then copyright doesn't apply

only active patents restrict copying a "idea" like a circuit design technique - expired patents are "prior art" - free for use
likewise anything you can discover by any level of inspection, testing, teardown analysis is free for copying if there are no active patents on them

trademark can prevent you from using the original company's name in your own advertising/description of a "clone"

design patents can protect a product's physical appearance

Last edited by jcx; 26th October 2012 at 07:55 PM.
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Old 26th October 2012, 08:09 PM   #8
Elvee is offline Elvee  Belgium
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There are serious regional/cultural variations on this "right": in France for example, there is no copyright in the Anglo-saxon meaning, but a "droit d'auteur", which is automatic (without formality) and runs for 70 years.
There is a also a notion of "modèle déposé" (~equivalent to design patents), which requires formalities.
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Old 26th October 2012, 08:19 PM   #9
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I suppose if you are a designer, or manufacturer of audio equipment, you should really try to patent your circuit. But, the circuit design would have to be patentable, which it could be in theory. I think DOLBY noise reduction was patented.

I guess most audio amplifier manufacturers would not be able to protect their circuit, even when they have designed it and made improvements, in say specifications over rival manufacturers. Because the improvements or circuit arrangements are not patentable.

A circuit of course, is not merely a drawing. Perhaps a circuit is copyrightable, given the work put into it. I'm not sure.

Last edited by richard8976; 26th October 2012 at 08:25 PM.
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Old 26th October 2012, 08:38 PM   #10
DF96 is offline DF96  England
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My understanding is that a handwritten copy could still be an infringement under UK law. UK law covers derivative works, which would include copies by any means, translations, repackaging. However, it is true that it is not the idea which is protected but the expression of that idea.

In Europe we tend to use copyright for some things which others use patents for.
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