patenting/copyrighting a hull design?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by jdworld, Mar 4, 2010.

  1. jdworld
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    jdworld Junior Member

    I've cruised around the USPTO site and have found that hulls can in fact be patented. Although I don't see how. I swear I've also occasionally seen "patented hull design" in a boat mfgr or two's marketing materials out there.

    But is it worthwhile? Anyone ever done it?

    And can a hull design be copyrighted?

    According to the Ranger Boat Company history at their website: "Ranger also received the first-ever "Protected Design" hull copyright registration from the U.S. Government." Not sure what a hull copyright registration is but it sure implies that a hull design can be copyrighted. Copyrighting is a lot easier/cheaper than patenting.
  2. hoytedow
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    hoytedow Carbon Based Life Form

    Why not? It is art, after all.
  3. Landlubber
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    Landlubber Senior Member

    ...a patent is as good as your money to protect it, the lawyers love this game.

    If it is your desire to make a few bob in boatbuilding, it is easy. Start with a bank account of a million dollars, a patented hull design, build a few boats, have them copied, sue the arse off the ********, and you will end up with a few bob.
  4. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Well said Landlubber.
  5. marshmat
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    marshmat Senior Member

    The trouble with patenting a hull (or a lot of other things) might be summed up as:

    - To get it patented, you have to prove it's substantially different from what already exists.

    - To get around the patent, your cheap snake of a competitor only has to demonstrate some differences between his and yours (people sometimes say "a 10% difference", whatever the @#$% that means in the context of a hull design).

    - To defend the patent against your cheap snake of a competitor, you need an army of lawyers and the financial means to keep said lawyers happy.

    - If you successfully defend your patent and start making money, some patent troll will wait until you're rich, then come out of the woodwork with an even bigger legal army, claiming yours infringes his. (Example case: Any cellphone maker of the 2000s, versus any other cellphone maker or any of several dozen no-name holding companies whose only assets are impossibly generic patent papers and angry-bulldog lawyers.)

    I suppose one could file papers to register a copyright with some official agency, but practically speaking, if you did the design, you automatically hold the copyright to it- just as if you wrote a song or a book. And if someone infringes it.... well, remember that army of lawyers? (Or, I suppose you could do what the recording industry associations do, and send the guy a threatening "DMCA notice" asking for fifty grand and citing the IP of his routing gateway or network printer as the infringing party ;) .)
  6. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    In the US you really don't need to patent a design. Patenting is a long expensive process involvling lawyers (spell that "money") and the US patent office 9spelled "agony"). We now have the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act. see this bunch of links.

    The process is simpler than patenting, it's more like getting a trademark or copyright. But it suffers from all the same problems everyone has already listed.

    First: you have to show that no one has every registered or patented this design or one substantially like it. That is very hard to do because if you can think of a design I can just about always show you one like it. Boats have been around for thousands of years and powered boats for about 150 so pretty much everything has been tried

    Second: if granted a registration, then you have to protect it. That means going after whoever copies it. That means you need to have deep pockets to pay a lawyer.

    It has been done. Boston whaler has done it and continues to go after people who copy their stuff especially the old 13 foot whaler design (which by the way, was borrowed from the sea sled designed by Lindsey Lord. But what Whaler patented was not the hull, but the hull construction))

    But others have tried and lost (for instance the Hinckley Picnic Boat which of course was based on a pretty common design from the 1920's and 30's)

    But occassionally some one does come up with a new idea. Bertrams Moppie is a good example. So if it's really unique go for it.

    Actually the real secret is to build a really good boat at a reasonable price. Even if someone does copy it, to make it cheaper it will probably be junk and they won't be around long, I can site a lot of examples but for the sake of wanting to live a little longer I won't.
  7. jdworld
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    jdworld Junior Member

    Great info Ike! Thanks - never would have known that now exists. Like a patent, it may not be bullet proof, but it's sounds much easier and cheaper.


    "Bertrams Moppie is a good example"

    I googled this (had never heard of it)......what was the unique aspect when it came out? It looks like a typical hull to my novice eyes. Was it the seat area being way in the back?
  8. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    To look at Moppie you would think,no big deal. But it was the forerunner of all the offshore racers (muscle boats) you see today, like Aronow's Cigarette, and Reggie Fountain's boats.

    What Bertram did was continue the 24 degree deep vee at the bow all the way aft to the transom with no warp or change in the deadrise angle. Then he put lifting strakes on the bottom on each side. Then he added really big engines to make it go. Simple? yes. But it beat everything in the water. Everyone building offshore boats has copied it since. Now boats like it are very common. And he got the idea from Ray Hunt who was the designer of Moppie. Hunt had been building offshore work and utility boats for some time. So again it wasn't really a new idea. It was an old idea put to a new use. The rest is history.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2010
  9. jdworld
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    jdworld Junior Member

    So in theory, had all that gone down in current times with this Vessel Hull Protection Act, Cigarette and Fountain boats wouldn't likely be around (or atleast look the way they do).
  10. jdworld
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    jdworld Junior Member

    That Vessel Hull Design Protection Act is great. I think anything that makes it illegal for someone to directly ripoff and profit from your idea is a good thing. One of those links has a report on it's effectiveness that was summoned after a couple years of it's existence. The overall consensus seemed to be "too early to tell" - but it was written back in 2003. Who knows by now. But they cited one of the early tests of the new VHDPA which was when Blazer boats said Maverick boats had copied. Here's the Blazer boat:

    and here is the Maverick boat they said was copying theirs:

    Gee - I don't really see any copying going on do you?? ;)

    I've also learned there's something called "hulls-splashing" (apparently a common enough practice to get it's own nickname), which is where one boat mfgr will take another mfgr's boat, make a mold from it, and then bang out their own copies to sell.

    Inspiration from something else is one thing, but totally ripping something off and making a cookie cutter replicate is another.

  11. Steve W
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    Steve W Senior Member

    Ike,i think you will find that the sea sled was an Albert Hickman creation rather than a Lindsey Lord design,i believe it was patented.
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