could this hull be reproduced without legal trouble

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Greg Winn, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. Greg Winn
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    Greg Winn Junior Member

    has anyone looked at the 2012 mako pro skiff 17' with "inverted V hull" design? this hull won a NMMA Innovation award in 2012. Is it a knock off of the Hickman Sea Sled? That patent expired recently I read. Is that why Mako cannot or did not try to register the hull design? Does that theoretially leave it open to beign reproduced? or something similar? just curious
     
  2. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    The Sea Sled was designed ninety years ago. The patent expired in the mid 20th century. What do you mean that they didn't register the hull? There copyrights, utility patents and industrial design patents which are different and cover specific aspects.
     
  3. Greg Winn
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    Greg Winn Junior Member

    I just ran across a web site today that said Us Registry for Hull Designs? that was aprt of the US Patent offidce. I went back to 2008 and looked at every filing in the system. mako Boats did not show anything registereedd for this new hulld esign. Is it possibly "patented" or registered elsewhere? More important though is whether or not this inverted V hill desing is truly new and patent protected or is it a knock off o fhte old Hickman design and therefore public domain and unprotected
     
  4. Greg Winn
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    Greg Winn Junior Member

    Sorry I am flying out the door late to an appointment and my typing suffered.
     
  5. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    The Registry of Hull Designs is a pretty new category of protection. It used to be that you could change 15% of any part of a boat and call it a new design. That meant you could take a mold of an existing hull, change the deck arrangements and it would be legal to market. The new protection makes a direct copy illegal. The changes have to be in the functional part. For example, on the bottom shape and not on the curve of the sheer.
     
  6. Jimboat
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    Jimboat Senior Member

  7. Petros
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    Petros Senior Member

    how can you get a patent on a 90 year old hull design? Even so, I do not think there is anything preventing you from designing a similar, but new, boat. If you pulled a mold off an existing hull that would be questionable ethics, and might open you up to a costly law suite, even if you did not violate any patents and you "win", it is not worth the trouble, those kind of expenses could put you out of business.

    Designing something similar is fine. there may even be a few alterations to the original you can do to improve some aspect of the design. Than you are free to make as many as you want without as much risk of a law suite.

    Many years ago in another industry I was making a product with a few similarities to another product that had a patent. the holder of the patent liked my design and offered to hire me to design for him and than he would make my designs. After meeting twice over it I decided I did not care for his terms (I would be his slave, and he gets all my designs). After I told him no thanks he thought he could bully me by having his attorney write a letter saying I was infringing on his patents. I responded with a letter pointing out a list of differences, and that some of his claims in the patent were not compatible with my design. I never heard from him again, I learned later that his attorney advised him a law suit would be a waste of time. So it is best to see what is in the patent before you proceed, you will likely find you can alter it enough, with different claims, to make it your own that is safe to produce.

    I have several patents for things that went into production, not sure it was worth the cost. Larger companies will knock it off and it could cost you many thousands of $ to defend your patent. I worked for a company once as a design engineer that would have me go through the patents for products the owner liked, and found ways to "get around" them. I told my supervisor that was questionable ethics and not fair to the patent holder. He said "there is nothing he can do about it". I did not work for that company very long.

    Develop your own design based on improvements to the old "prior art" design and you will have no problem.
     
  8. Submarine Tom

    Submarine Tom Previous Member

    If it's a one-off and not for profit I don't think you've got anything to worry about.
     
  9. tom kane
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    tom kane Senior Member

    As always Patents and design only apply to a specific aspect of the boat..not the whole boat or other object. The trick is to cheaply find what that specific claim applies to. you can not patent a boat,Tyre or other object..that has already been done.
     
  10. Greg Winn
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    Greg Winn Junior Member

    Thanks to all responders. I have a better understanding now.
     
  11. tom kane
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    tom kane Senior Member

    You can build virtually anything for your own use or experimentation.But if you market it then you should check to see if you are infringing some other`s patent.How else could we get improvements on present inventions and innovation.
     
  12. DCockey
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    DCockey Senior Member

    Below is information about legal aspect of design protection in the US which I have previously posted here in other threads.

    There are major differences between:
    1) Legal protection of designs (very limited)
    2) What many if not most designers believe the legal protections are
    3) What may be ethically and morally acceptable

    I researched the legal aspects of design protection a few months ago. There is very little legal protection of the shape of a boat. Plans are a somewhat different story. Below is a summary I've posted before of what I found about the situation in the US. I'm not a lawyer and I'm very interested in hearing from anyone with additions or corrections based on a knowledge of the law (as opposed "what it must be", etc).

    Utility Patent, 20 years. Must be applied for and granted. Most boat designs and elements of boat designs don’t qualify for a utility patent because they don’t meet the required conditions. Validity of a patent is only established through litigation. After 20 years the contents of a utility patent are public domain.

    Design Patent, 14 years. Must be applied for and granted. Protects only the original aspects of the appearance and ornamentation of an object, not it’s functional aspects or construction. Validity of a patent is only established through litigation. After 14 years the contents of a design patent are public domain.

    Vessel Hull Design Protection Act, 10 years. Registration must be applied for and approved . Designs which are covered by a design patent are not eligible for VHDPA registration. Covers the shape and the hull and deck if they are sufficiently unique. “Protection is afforded only to vessel hull designs embodied in actual vessel hulls that are publicly exhibited, publicly distributed, or offered for sale or sold to the public on or after October 28, 1998.” Does not apply to designs which have not been built and application for registration has to be made within two years of the first public showing of the hull. Once the 10 year term expires the design is in the public domain.

    Copyright, term varies and for works created before 1978. and without copyright notice and/or registration there may be no copyright. Works created after 1977 do not require registration or notice. Terms for works which qualify for copyright are very long. In general copyright applies to “original works of authorship”. Artwork is covered by copyright to the extent it is non-functional. Functional objects are not covered by copyright. Boat plans which are original may be covered by copyright and can’t be reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner (other than within the fair use exemption). However the knowledge in the plans isn’t covered so boats can be built from copyright plans without infringing on the copyright.

    Trade Dress, indefinite. Trade dress are the unique, visual, generally non-functional elements of a product (or its packaging which is unlikely to apply to a boat) which are identified with its source. Once rights to a trade dress are established they can last indefinitely. Registration is not required though there are advantages to registering a trade dress. I assume that similar to a trademark, trade dress has to be defended or rights to it may be lost. Trade dress appears to have been the primary basis of Hinckley’s claims concerning its “picnic boat” designs. Only certain elements of a boat’s design could constitute trade dress.

    Trademark, indefinite. “A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” The name of a boat design such as “Laser” or “Sunfish”, or of a manufacturer such as “Benateau” may be a trademark and if so can only be used by the trademark owner. However, a trademark is not a design so ownership of a trademark does not confer any rights to a particular design.

    License Agreements and Contracts, term depends on the agreement. Private agreements between two parties which are only enforceable by one of the parties, and in general require agreement by both parties. An example would be a license agreement between a designer and a builder under which the designer agrees to furnish the builder with plans for a boat and the builder agrees to pay a fee, build only one boat from the plans, and not allow anyone else to build a boat from the plans. Presumably this type of agreement is what is meant by statements such as “buying a set of plans only allows one boat to be built”. A license agreement can also include a requirement that the plans cannot be transferred to another party without their agreement to the license terms. Someone who is not a party to the license agreement or contract cannot be forced to abide by its terms, nor can they require the parties to the agreement to behave in a certain manner. Museums and others who own plans can require agreement to a license agreement which may include building of boats to the plans as a condition of purchasing copies of the plans. However they cannot restrict the building of boats of the designs by parties who did not agree to the license conditions.

    David Cockey
    7 December 2010
    Revised 31 March 2011
     
  13. DCockey
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    DCockey Senior Member

    The FineWoodworking magazine website has a page written by a lawyer on the legalities of copying a furniture design.

    http://www.finewoodworking.com/item/31793/is-copying-furniture-legal

    Furniture is not covered by anything like the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act. Otherwise the legalites in the US of copying a boat design appear to be the same as copying a piece of furniture.
     
  14. CutOnce

    CutOnce Previous Member

    In response to the above poster's great overviews of patents, copyright and industrial designs it may be worthwhile to outline a different perspective.

    Legal instruments of any kind are only worthwhile if you have the significant resources to actively defend and register the designs in all venues where the breaches may take place. Many jurisdictions completely ignore design protections that may be only applicable to the place of their registration. Failing to vigorously and adequately defend design rights can be used against your rights in subsequent litigation.

    Putting it crudely, design litigation is a money contest, and the guy with the deepest pockets usually wins. Huge organizations can out-lawyer, delay and obfuscate most patent holders till they run out of money, and then snap up the assets at the insolvency sell-off for cents on the dollar. Right and wrong have little to do with defining who will eventually end up with the market.

    --
    CutOnce
     

  15. myark
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    myark Senior Member

    99.8% patents fail. Only 3,000 patents out of 1.5 million patents are commercially viable. “In truth, odds are stacked astronomically against inventors, and no marketing outfit can change them. ‘There are around 1.5 million patents in effect and in force in the USA, and of those, maybe 3,000 are commercially viable,’ [Richard Maulsby, director of the Office of Public Affairs for the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office], says. ‘It’s a very small percentage of patents that actually turn into products that make money for people. On top of all that, to get ripped off for tens of thousands of dollars adds insult to injury.”
     
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