Intellectual property

peranders said:
Intellectual property, what is this really? Does this exist in any lawbooks?

I know that people here use it as "my ideas which I have written about" but what does it mean, more than "I get annoyed if you steal the whole thing and put your name on it without giving med any credit".


You disappoint me. I thought you had a minimum of intelligence and sense of decency. Or is this another case of " I really am lazy so maybe someone bla bla.."?

Quote from AudioXxpress (follow-up of AE where the Jung/Didden/Galo designs appeared):

"Legal notice.
Each design published in AudioXpress is the
intellectual property of its authors and is offered to readers
for their personal use only. Any commercial use of such ideas or designs without prior written permission is an infringement of the copyright protection of the work of each contributing author."

Authors put in many months of work to get a design publish-ready. If you want to make money of other people's work, you're just a thief. Plain and simple.

Jan Didden
Thank you guys. Good info here. What I can read IP is a collection of rights
The four main types of IP are:

patents for inventions

trade marks for brand identity

designs for product appearance

copyright for material

So if you haven't copyrighted, patented, registered trade mark or registered design of appearance, you have no intellectual property, not legally at least.


diyAudio Moderator Emeritus
2002-10-24 10:19 pm
I think Jan is trying to distinguish between "legal" and "moral." With all due respect to our legal profession, they're NOT the same thing. When we use "intellectual property" in its strict legals sense, you're right- absent going through government procedures, it doesn't exist. But morally, it's still someone's creation, and many will think that copying it for profit is immoral.

Although I don't know about the law's stance on this, I believe there is probably some kind of assumed rights you have as someone who's made a creative work without copyrighting it, only to have them used by a commercial entity to make them money without your permission. My guess would be that this would be a civil matter rather than criminal(big distinction in the US). Similarly, copyrighting someone else's work is a big no-no, although I don't know whether this would be criminal fraud or not.

Similarly, patenting something you didn't come up with would probably be fraudulent, as you are required to list 'prior art' on patents. The US patent system is overworked and has some pretty nasty violations of this(like Amazon's 1-click ordering "idea"), which havn't been rectified, so I don't know of the actual process of invalidating a patent.

The 'public domain' is what things pass into(and remain there) when they are no longer owned by anyone. After something becomes public domain through expiration of patent/copyright(or is declared that by its owner at inception), noone can legally copyright it, and anyone can use it in commercial or noncommercial works.


2002-11-30 10:12 pm
More GPLed circuits ;-)

Let's discuss this in relation to electronic designs (circuit topology, selection of components, values, PCB layout, and the like). I don't think it is possible to "copyright" a circuit in a way that cloning it would expose you to legal prosecution. Even if, it would differ from country to country. The only means to protect your design is patenting it, but then your design will carefully be evaluated. If it is not really something new, you will not get a patent (in theory).

Anyway, I have very mixed feelings about this issue.

Although I certainly have respect for designers who come up with something really new (there are not many, Nelson Pass maybe being one of them), I often think it is absurd to put a 500 word copyright notice next to a simple circuit consisting of five components connected in a more or less standard way.

While it is surely a good idea to protect someone who put thousands of hours in a design from being ripped off by scrupulous thiefs, it is also important not to prevent the progress of technology as a whole. If every little idea could be copyrighted, we would end up violating thousands of copyrights and patents when building a classic, symmetric, solid state push-pull amplifier. "Can I use an LED as a voltage reference for my CCS? Or is it copyrighted?"

As an example, take a look at the Linux Community and Microsoft... Think about it... Do you really think patents protect the poor Mr. Gates from being ripped off? I think they are often misused as a means to annoy competitors (the "one click buy" example is a good one).

I think the term "intellectual property" is a contradiction in itself. Let's assume you have a great idea... Only to discover that someone else had the very same idea some time before you (whithout you knowing about it), then your idea wouldn't be your intellectual property, right? Can this be? I don't think so.

I think sharing ideas is the best thing... Like here on the forum... I see it like this: 99.99% of what I know came from ideas and research of other people anyway. Why sould I be so keen to protect my own 0.01% from other people using it?
"Share and share alike"........

To borrow from jwb in another thread.

I have no problem sharing with:

People who have something to contribute in return,

Or those just learning and really appreciate a helping hand from a cranky old fart.

I have real problem sharing with people who send me e-mails asking for complete schematics, detailed parts lists, and.....oh yeah.....the best of the top and bottom layers of the PCB. Because I am their " good DIY buddy". They are not my friends, and I will not give them anything.

Asking me for my help, and taking it to make something that you sell to make money (possibly in direct competion to me) is theft of intellectual property. Therefore, I am wary of what I give to whom.

If I post it here, then it is for all to use, but most likely insufficient to make a complete unit that can be sold. It will work, but won't have the stuff that goes around it. So, if some of my circuits seem to missing something, now you know why. Besides, figuring out the rest my college texts would say...... "is left to the reader for homework".

One person, who shall remain nameless, does not put complete/accurate schematics on his website. For those whom purchase his products, they get the complete and accurate ones. It is too bad that there are thieves out there that force some of us who are tired of this piracy to be guarded in what we share, and with whom.



2002-11-30 10:12 pm
Re: Re: More GPLed circuits ;-)

grimberg said:
Would you mind elaborating a little bit on this issue? I am curious as to why you believe Mr. Gates is being victimized and how.

It was meant ironically. Understanding it this way makes it fit better to the rest of my post.

What I wanted to say is that Mr. Gates makes use of various techniques including the misuse of patents to annoy his competitors.
You all forgot one...

Many entities protect their IP by keeping them confidential, hence the term Trade Secret. Although it is rare, there are instances of identifying markings on PCB components being "removed" to prevent any reverse engineering and/or duplication.

As for the power of copyright, that only exists for diagrams and other "literary" works like software code. The problem of using only copyright is that it only protects against unauthorized publication of your literary work. If your competitor builds the physical circuit, he has not actually violated the copyright. If you competitor keeps any copies of the schematic anywhere, such as a website or the top drawer of their desk, then that is a violation of copyright.

Once a circuit is built into a circuit board, it must be protected by patent or design. (It's important to know that patent is short for utility patent and covers the function of an "invention.") A design (short for industrial design patent) is almost solely a visual or aesthetic protection and applies very well to things like chassis or enclosure designs, but can also cover the layout of a PCB. If the layout of PCB has a function, such as an integrated antenna, then it also can be patented.

One more thing, if you publish a schematic on a public forum, you can retain copyright over it. I believe that is automatic and does not require registration. Registration confers the protection of a formal date on which the work was protected.

If you publish a schematic on a public forum, you automatically lose the right to patent a circuit based on it, since you've disclosed your "invention" to the public domain. This is automatic and irreversible.

This is why many designers choose not to disclose some or all of their intellectual property. Disclosure automatically erases any chance that something could be protected by patent or design.

One person, who shall remain nameless, does not put complete/accurate schematics on his website. For those whom purchase his products, they get the complete and accurate ones. It is too bad that there are thieves out there that force some of us who are tired of this piracy to be guarded in what we share, and with whom.

Certainly this applies to me.

I am not willing to share all my 'trade secrets' because I am well aware that others of a more venal nature might well try patenting them, giving them legal ownership of my ideas, and possibly jeopardising my livelihood. I am always aware than being 100% in the right probably gives you less than 50% chance of winning your case in law, and if you have limited resources, probably no chance at all.

Patent is interesting. Once granted, it is promulgated worldwide, and any country in which the patent is not extant can manufacture, sell and profit as long as it's not in the protected country. And if it is, YOU have to detect the infringement, and YOU have to take the felon to court, and YOU have to take the risk that you'll win when very likely the felon has unlimited legal resources! Why would you bother? Only if you had a couple of million and a working model of a time machine......

Once again, the law proves itself an ***, and lags 50 years behind technology, permitting all sorts of opportunistic activities while lining the pockets of the profession........


I have not built one of Dean's amp, prefering to do as much from scratch as possible. Thus I have no opion posative or negative about the products he sells. This is mentioned to indicate my lack of bias.

That said, I see nothing wrong at all with his practice. In fact. I consider it reasonable and prudent. It may very well help keep him in business. This benefits not only Dean but anyone who in the future might care to buy one of his kits.

BTW, for some additional info on IP as it pertains to the Internet check out ,,

These relate more to software but would seem to have implications for any information available on the internet.
AKSA said:

Certainly this applies to me.

I am not willing to share all my 'trade secrets' because I am well aware that others of a more venal nature might well try patenting them, giving them legal ownership of my ideas, and possibly jeopardising my livelihood.
Hugh, in order to get a patent there must be an invention (of some level) and never published before. You can't pick an existing thing and get a patent. It's very important to keep all secret until you have got the patent.

I also think that you and Rod are doing nothing wrong in not publishing everything. Many of your designs are very easy to copy so why make this easy?

There is nothing that says that work of some kind should be free for others to take advantage of.
So far so good.

There is just one question that is bothering me: A soon a something isn't new anymore it can't be patented anymore. That means as soon as it has been published (i.e. a thesis or a newspaper article) it is not patentable anymore because it is regarded as "prior art". This can be very O.K. for some people willing to offer their knowledge to others for free (or maybe they don't like the hassle to get a patent).
There is even a company searching for "prior art" in order to destroy patents. For valuable hints, the one delivering the info can get quite some money.

Now if I publish an idea on a place like this on the Internet, simply because I want to offer it to others for free intentionally ---would this also count as prior art, preventing others to patent it ? Work that has been published on paper can be proven quite easily even after decades, but what about work that has been published on a webpage that does stop to exist or whose content is deleted partially ?