Protecting boat designs and plans?

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by ben2go, Feb 10, 2009.

  1. ben2go
    Joined: Jul 2008
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    ben2go Boat Builder Wanna Be

    I have a question about protecting my design and plans.Is it worth it to copyright my plans?I know some people do this and issue a license with the plans to build a boat.I also know it's easy for someone to copy a design and make subtle changes to avoid copyright infringement.I talk to a copyright lawyer and he had never dealt with boat plans.So what's everyone's opinion on this?Would my plans and the boat hold value better if the plans are copyright protected?
     
  2. masalai
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    masalai masalai

    That could lead to a difficulty if your plans included something that was copyright by a bigger (permanent lawyers on staff) design house.... - Just a clause on the issuance of the plans to a builder for the right to build one boat - see your lawyer....
     
  3. Ike
    Joined: Apr 2006
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    Ike Senior Member

    What you need to look up the following:
    The Vessel Hull Design Protection Act (US) Overview and analysis of the VHDPA http://www.copyright.gov/vessels/

    Federal Protection for Vessel Hull Designs US Patent and Trademarks Office http://www.wsba.org/media/publications/barnews/archives/2002/march-02-anti.htm

    The Vessel Hull Design Protection Act is an attempt by the Gov to prevent copyright infringement and hull splashing. It is not a copyright. Not exactly anyway. I'm not a lawyer and the legal difference escapes me. But essentially it says you can register a design with the patent office. Of course first they check to make sure someone hasn't already registered a very similar design.

    The problem here is, there is very little that hasn't been tried in the boat design biz. Most hull shapes have been around forever. Very few designs are patented, however variations on the design are.

    Anyway I hope the links help.
     
  4. ben2go
    Joined: Jul 2008
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    ben2go Boat Builder Wanna Be

    Thanks.
     
  5. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    Location: Eustis, FL

    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Peter it falls under "Intellectual Property", which is a way of protecting clever engineering, styling or innovation that doesn't directly fall under a patent or copyright. Most just copyright their work which makes things simple and defensible under the intellectual properties portion of the law.

    Every design I've seen has had some interesting twist or approach and solutions to common problems. How a designer handled the chain plate loads, mast steps or other notable piece of thinking. In themselves not sufficient to warrant an application, but the product as a whole worthy of some protection. I know I can recognize most designers work, just by the way they draw up their plans. This in itself is protectable under copyright.
     
  6. Frosty

    Frosty Previous Member

    So you have a copyright and years later you find some one copied it at the other side of the world. No one knows the builder or they went bust. What would you do?

    Even if they had'nt gone bust and were still making them all you can do is try to stop them from making anymore . You could try to suit them I suppose,--but if they don't have money and speak a funny language.

    Unless some one big is mas producing them there is not a lot you can do that wont cost you more than its all worth.
     
  7. Wynand N
    Joined: Oct 2004
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    Wynand N Retired Steelboatbuilder

    And the only winners are the lawyers :(
     
  8. Ike
    Joined: Apr 2006
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    Ike Senior Member

    PAR, you are correct, and yes it can be copyrighted, but try to collect. Boston Whaler has been fighting that battle ever since they first started making the now famous 13 foot Boston Whaler. Just look around at how many builders make a boat just like it, well almost like it. Just enough different to keep the lawyers from the door.

    However, many designers do copyright their work. It makes them feel safer, but with all the cases of splashing going on I doubt it does much good.

    An example. Back in 1986 or 87 I visited a boat manufacturer in Longview Texas, He very proudly showed me his "latest" model. He was in the midst of splashing a Ranger (bass boat) hull. And then he said, oh, but we are going to change this, and that, and that,.....etc. He didn't seem to understand or care that what he was doing was stealing. And I'm sure he thought I was an *** for asking. But he wasn't breaking any Federal Laws, and I was constrained by Federal law from revealing his "trade secrets".

    This is just one (probably the most blatant) of many instances of this I have seen. So all the anit-splashing laws and the Vessel Hull Design law have been passed to try and curtail it. But with over 4800 boat builders in the US and Canada and thousands more around the world, it doesn't do much good. You just have to go with what you got and hope others don't try to copy it.

    I know this sounds cynical but then I guess it is.
     
  9. ben2go
    Joined: Jul 2008
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    ben2go Boat Builder Wanna Be

    Thanks everyone for the info.I'm not selling plans for a living.My design is a simple utility design.It is a spin off of a boat that has already been copied by hundreds of manufactures.It just seems that ever time I build a boat people ask where they can purchase one.After I tell them I built it myself, they either want me to build one for them or want build plans.Liability is to much for me to build for someone,so next best thing I can do is offer plans.So,I guess it isn't worth the effort to protect the plans.They will be sold in a binder with pictures.
     
  10. duluthboats
    Joined: Mar 2002
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    duluthboats Senior Dreamer

    If you produce original material (text, drawings, graphics, art) they are covered by copyright law. The only thing you need a lawyer for is to enforce your rights because no one else will do it for you. The market for small boat plans is not that big. If you put out a good package and it sells well don’t be surprised when it shows up on e-bay.
    Gary
     
  11. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Peter, I understand the realities of the protection laws and also have seen hulls being splashed.

    The simple truth is you have to "defend" your rights, which most don't nor have the pockets to do.

    Boston Whaler's suit has some issues that has kept it unresolved and in my opinion they're not deserving. In a nut shell their 13' boat is a knock off of a knock off. They used Jackson's work, which was based on Hickman's work, then later modified, because they didn't think they could sell a true "sled" design. With Both Hickman and Jackson's efforts in the public domain, Whaler doesn't really have much of a right to *****. Jackson is the one that should have been taken to court, but there's the rub, Hickman's work wasn't protected.

    The bottom line is unless you've got a fair amount of experience with this type of law, just show up with the best attorney you can afford. Unless you can afford to defend your law provided protection, across the average litigation of 7 years, then you shouldn't bother trying, which is what most do. It's really a simple business decision. Drag out the legal ramblings until the other party loses interest, money or appeal. In the long run, this isn't the cheapest approach, but is the most successful. Eventually it's a "last man standing" thing, with the deeper of the two pockets out lasting the other. Welcome to free enterprise.
     
  12. Frosty

    Frosty Previous Member

    Some would say that those who buy a cheap copy would never buy the real thing anyway. There is something in that when you talk of copy Rolex, the copy guy would never buy a real one one so no damage is actually done to Rolex. same with the Guchi bags etc etc .

    Colvic marine makes a a copy Swan, they say its a copy and don't call it a Swan. However if they pay a royalty or not I do not know.

    However a Colvic is bought as hull or parts there of, the real Swan is millions and therefore the copy buyer would never ever buy a Swan anyway.
     
  13. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    Par, well said. Exactly my point.
     
  14. Poida
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    Poida Senior Member

    I'm wondering how they would ever come to a decision whether a design has been copied or not. Who makes the final decision? A judge. Unless he/she is an expert in building design a boat hull would look like a boat hull. So the two parties would have the same old setup in all disputes. One side pays someone like a navel engineer to say they are different and the other side does the same to say they are not.

    As someone has already pointed out he who runs out of money first loses.

    Rather than worry about someone stealing your design, I think in business it is better to concentrate on a good quality product and good customer service.
     

  15. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Judges are constantly the "dumb" one in regard to any particular issue, but that's why "experts" are provided as witnesses. The judge doesn't have to know anything at all about boat design, just the points of law that are being challenged, of which he is the expert.
     
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