Copied Hull - no copyright violation?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Claus Riepe, Oct 16, 2007.

  1. Claus Riepe
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    Claus Riepe Junior Member

    This is an actual case, in England.

    : A guy has bought a used boat, built a plug from the hull, claims to have added more freeboard, built a mould from it, and now reproduces boats from it. Says that is perfectly legal.

    Anyone here disagreeing?

  2. RHP
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    RHP Senior Member

    I am no lawyer but I suggest that if the designer can prove the lineage of the original design in the new one, a judge would support his claim. I assume the copyright protection (if such a thing exists in hull design) hasnt expired? The law can be a stick in the mud, but usually it aint daft.
  3. Chris Ostlind

    Chris Ostlind Previous Member

    So, ya think ya can save some money by splashing another guy's work, do ya?

    Here's the truly ridiculous part of what appears to be a pragmatic exercise...

    Even really big name designers do not charge too much money for their services when one considers the costs involved with: 1. the creation of a mold 2. the place to actually build the boats 3. the costs of the materials involved working out the bugs of the process 4. the labor for same 5. marketing of said ripped-off design... and on and on the list grows until the design fee, whatever it might have been, will be but a miniscule portion of the whole thing.

    So, let's say you do all this splashing thing and get into production. The original designer discovers the theft of his work and sets about to take legal action. When you consider the costs to hire a lawyer to defend the ripping off process, you will easily exceed the costs for a designer in the first place. The whole thing ends-up as a pitiful exercise for all parties involved.

    Me, I'd rather call a few old buddies, who are ex-special forces types and ask them to take said design thief out to dinner one dark night, so that they may have a dance, or two, with him. ;-)

    And then there's the ethical part which speaks to one's character.
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  4. Nojjan
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    Nojjan All thumbs...

    Figuring out it is a copy is not easy (unless the idiot brags about it as in this example). However, adding freeboard changes the behavior and geometry of the hull which means it will look like a new boat, behave like a new boat, maybe it is a new boat?

    With the new softwares available you can make a really serious cad model with only 3-4 photos (perpendicular angles to the hull). Is that stealing? There are almost no boat designers that are not borrowing ideas and inspiration from others.
  5. Chris Ostlind

    Chris Ostlind Previous Member

    Yes, Nojjan... and you have said the magic words; borrowing and inspiration.

    We humans don't typically operate in a vacuum. We have seen and experienced existing forms and a goodly part of the creative process comes from the motivation to take existing design ideas to another level. Sometimes that creativity is a dead-end process and sometimes... it hits a real strong note as to making the concept better. Better, being one of hundreds of tangible and intangible aspects of the overall design effort.

    What does not fit in the process, and you typically do not find this in the business of splashing a hull to take a shortcut, is the attribution of the original inspiration and the acknowledgement of the source from where the new iteration has come.

    Yes, we all borrow. One could even make a general argument that there is nothing new under the sun in boat design save for the latest advancements in technology and how they might be applied to older ideas. Regardless, I'm of the opinion that the process of inspired borrowing, as it were, should be graciously acknowledged when the connection is powerfully obvious.

    Splashing exsiting designs so that a higher freeboard element can be attached, would be of that category in my estimation, if not an ugly effort to outright swipe the work of another.

    If someone were to approach me with an idea along the lines you suggest... I might, depending on mood, just go ahead and give them my blessing, while indicating that it would be interesting to see what they could do with the original concept. Stealing the design and then taking the "Bugger Off" attitude later, would only piss me off and force me to make that call to my friends.

    It's always better to Man-Up about the whole thing and enlist the participation of the designer in the first place. It tends to keep things from getting stupid later on,
  6. Doug Lord

    Doug Lord Guest

    Using somebody else's work without their permission is stealing any way you look at it. Getting justice after the fact is an entirely different matter. My patent attorney told me that in the US- despite anti-splashing laws and an expansion of copyright law- the best way to protect yourself from this kind of theft is to get a design patent. Of course, you should also
    pack away the money from the get go because defending YOUR rights could ruin you.....
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  7. PI Design
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    PI Design Senior Member

    IMHO the key point here is that he used the existing boat as a mould, for commercial gain. Had he designed and built a mould/hull from scratch, then even if it looked very similar to the other one I would have said that was okay - he was just being inspired. But using the other boat as part of the production process is surely illegal?
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  8. waikikin
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    waikikin Senior Member

    Besides ripping the designer, the dirty doods also ripping off the builder that invested in the original legit tooling which dont come cheap, the scoundrel needs some contact counseling or some industrial sabotage which is probably better 'cos we already know he's a cheapo scumbag & the economic shock might push him out of business. Regards from Jeff.
  9. Claus Riepe
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    Claus Riepe Junior Member

    PI Design,
    I agree, that is very much the key point here, directly using an existing hull to build a plug/mould for another boat, for commercial gain. 'Inspiration' would be tolerable, carbon-copying not.

    Thus, he saved the costs of a new design process, he was able to choose a hull right from the start that had already shown it's worth in practice and so avoided the risk of coming out with a relative failure hull altogether, and he also saved costs for having to build a new plug from scratch too. Unfair competition, in any case.
    Further, he did NOT name the original boat designer in the boat specs, until he was found out about it, and remains to be quite defiant as one sees from his statement all this was 'legal'. He claims that as there was no 'design patent' registered for the hull (which was BTW conceived in the seventies), it was in the public domain to freely use and copy it.

    But even if this was so, would that still cover simply making a new mould from an existing hull?

  10. Basjan
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    Basjan Basjan

    I work with counterfeit goods on a regular basis and " splashing" as you call it will be regarded as counterfeiting in our books. However, proving it legally if the design was not patented or at least very well known like Levis jeans, etc. will be very costly, time consuming and with the chance of failure, judges do not think the way we do.

    I would suggest that any person who wants to splash, do so either in a swimming pool or where ever he can find some water.

    Alternatively he must design his own boat or first implement the extensive changes to the original hull befor making his mould so that the end product, being his mould and what ever comes out of it does not resemble the original. So said, minor cosmetic changes (eg. extra streaks, 1' longer length or higher gunnels) will not be regarded as extensive changes and will be copyright theft.

    As an interesting thought, a Chinese company was caught building a car BMW style front and Merc style rear. It was declared to be counterfeit.
  11. RHP
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    RHP Senior Member

    An alleged manufacturer of a a Spray style yacht who allegedly refuses to pay royalties to the designer might be an example of someone extracting the Michael.
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    RAY TOSTADO Junior Member

    What is there to copy right?

    A hull form measurement can be altered by what ratio to avoid infringment?

    Can one copy right performance? Stability, speed, deck appearance?

    Then there is something about the highest form of a compliment....

  13. SamSam
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    SamSam Senior Member

    It is not illegal, just unethical. The design is from the '70s. If the original builder had no patent, he had no legal rights. If he had either a utility patent or a design patent from the '70s, they would have expired by now, and again, he would have no rights.

    As far as ethics, that is not a top priority in business. Legality is usually the #1 concern, and that sometimes takes second place to whether or not you can get away with it, or if the profit potential outweighs the fine/punishment potential.
  14. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    A number of years ago the Hull Design Protecton Act was introduced in the US congress and I was the Coast Guard persosn who had to write our position paper about it. The conclusion was that it was a good idea but probably unenforceable. I had to do a lot of research on patenting of boat designs.

    First, a hull is almost impossible to patent. Most hull designs have been around so long that they can't be patented. Most are just an evolution of an existing design. However, once in a while someone does come up with something unique and gets it patented. The original Boston Whaler is a good example. Moppie, the original Bertram is another. But even these were just an evolution of existing designs. The Boston Whaler was a variation on Lindsay Lord's Sea Sled, and Moppie was just a radical deep vee with a constant instead of a variable deadrise. And Bertam added lifting strakes. Often what is patented is actually the innovation in the hull not the design itself.

    However the onus is on the owner of the design to go after the copier in court. There is no law enforcement agency that goes after cheats.

    So congress passed the Hull Design Protection Act. A builder or designer could register their design with the US patent office. The patent office would look through their archive of designs and if there was nothing similar they would register the design. This is not a patent. It is just a means of keeping track of who is the owner of the design.

    This law has proved so ineffective that congress is now considering a bill to strengthen the act.

    In the meantime Boston Whaler and others have gone after copiers in court and sometimes won and some times not.

    Now I don't know what the laws are in the UK on this, but since ours is based on English Common Law, I imagine they are similar and the owner of the design could sue the copier for damages etc. Whether that would be worth it for a 37 year old design, I don't know. It depends on how popular the design is.

    By the way designs are not copyrighted. A design name or logo can be trademarked, but not copyrighted. And the laws on trademarks are pretty much universal. You can be seriously sued for violation of trademark.

  15. PI Design
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    PI Design Senior Member

    I understand that it is hard to protect your rights to a hull shape - after all, to the ubtrained eye all boats look the same. But surely using the original boat as a mould must violate some laws? Otherwise, am I at liberty to take a mould off a Laser and start production in China of cheap knock-offs?
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