Theft of Intellectual Property?

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ONAWHIM

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I recently had an email exchange with a vendor that started with a question regarding whether a rocket was his design or an adaptation.

The reply was a polite but a very direct education regarding theft of intellectual property, adaptation of design and possibly qualifying as an infringement of copyright.
Damage to reputation was discussed.

It would seem to me that in this community there are a good deal of builder/fliers that adapt, modify, upscale and downscale the designs of others.
This practice goes as far as scaling decal sets and finish paint to match the original.

To this community at large, please educate me further since I do not wish to be in violation of the law.

Can a private person, that is someone that does not gain financially from adapting a design be in violation of trade law?

I wish that vendor no ill will nor do I imply the same toward him.


Wm.
 

Micromeister

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It really depends on the Intent of the modeler. If your cloning the same model (exact size ect) of a currently offered design, then you have no right to do so without written permission of the designer. If on the other hand you are Up or Downscaling that same current design it really a stretch for it to be anything other then a compliment to the designer that you like it so much you the builder are going to all that trouble to resize and build the design its more free Advertizing for the designer. If the design is Oop, then one should Ask for permission to clone same size models for resale but as long as you only producing the model for your own flying pressure there is no harm. Up or Down scale however you wish.
As far as decal go! i've been told many times by Estes industries that I can clone just about any decal sheet they have but I can NOT use their Logo on the models. I have in the past forgotten about that on a few Up and Downscale clones but to date it hasn't been a legal problem:)

It's my general feeling as a Model Designer myself; If I offer a KIT or plan, all that's required is ackowledgement that its my design not the builders.
Simplistic I suppose; but most of these designs are not copy-writed or trade-marked other then the manufacturers LOGO.
Hope that helps a little.
 

jadebox

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Simplistic I suppose; but most of these designs are not copy-writed or trade-marked other then the manufacturers LOGO.
Hope that helps a little.
A design is copyrighted as soon as it is created. Technically, our upscales. downscales, and clones are copyright infringements. But, a manufacturer isn't going to object to someone making a copy for their own use since the infringement isn't going to affect the value of the copyright to the copyright holder.

Wikipedia (the fount of all knowledge) has a number of good articles about copyrights: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright

-- Roger
 

n5wd

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Can a private person, that is someone that does not gain financially from adapting a design be in violation of trade law?
Under current copyright laws, it doesn't matter whether you infringe for gain or not - an infringement is an infringement... unless it's one of the six permitted uses of copyrighted material under the Fair Use provisions. Then, the question of whether you gained anything or not comes into play in deciding whether you have complied with the law. And, believe it or not, making rockets isn't one of the six categories of uses permitted under Fair Use. ;)

Does that answer what you wanted to know (since I'm not sure what you mean by "trade laws").

Wayne
 

mperdue

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A design is copyrighted as soon as it is created. Technically, our upscales. downscales, and clones are copyright infringements. But, a manufacturer isn't going to object to someone making a copy for their own use since the infringement isn't going to affect the value of the copyright to the copyright holder.

Wikipedia (the fount of all knowledge) has a number of good articles about copyrights: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright

-- Roger
Copyrights don't apply to the designs but they do apply to the instructions. Designs could be patented but there's nothing about a model rocket design that would get a patent approved.

Mario
 

sandman

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Copyrights don't apply to the designs but they do apply to the instructions. Designs could be patented but there's nothing about a model rocket design that would get a patent approved.

Mario
That's what I thought when I was reading this. Thanks, Mario.

But still, it is polite to ask.
 

powderburner

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Can a private person, that is someone that does not gain financially from adapting a design be in violation of trade law?
I had always thought that the difference between "OK" use and copyright/patent infringement was whether you were trying to profit from someone else's work, like if you are trying to sell copies of kits of someone else's rocket design.

(Either way, Sandman's point about being courteous enough to ask permission is a very good one.)

Seems that what a couple of you guys are saying is that now there is absolutely NO use of someone else's work. That would seem like a tough one to try to enforce? I mean, if you made a close copy for yourself (no sales involved, no possible way to profit), how would anyone even know it was a copy?

I do not agree that an upscale or downscale is automatically a copyright violation. First of all, upscales or downscales may look similar on the outside but they often involve small changes in nose cone shape (how often have you ever seen a "perfect" upscale of a NC?), or a TTW fin/tab changes to a plain fin, or the MMT changes for a completely different motor size, etcetera. Any one of these design changes technically/legally makes your up/downscale "copy" a new design. Toss in any changes (anything at all) in recovery system, changes from launch lugs to buttons, or changes from rubber band shock cords to elastic or kevlar, and you definitely have a "new" design (at least, from a legal standpoint).

And yes, I asked a lawyer.
 

jadebox

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Copyrights don't apply to the designs but they do apply to the instructions. Designs could be patented but there's nothing about a model rocket design that would get a patent approved.
Of course a design is protected by copyright. "Design" being the artistic elements of the rocket as opposed to the functional parts.

https://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap13.html

-- Roger
 
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sunward

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Those would be considered registered trademarks. The NFL has copyrighted: the word "Super Bowl". JD
uhm, nope. "Super Bowl" is a trademark of National Football League UNINCORPORATED ASSOCIATION NEW YORK 280 Park Avenue New York NEW YORK 10017.

https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/index.jsp and do a search.

You can't copyright a short phrase.
 
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mperdue

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Of course a design is protected by copyright. "Design" being the artistic elements of the rocket as opposed to the functional parts.

https://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap13.html

-- Roger
Let me re-phrase it relative to the discussion at hand...

As far as model rockets are concerned the copyrights for the various design elements have run out leaving it very difficult to create a design that is different enough from previous designs to warrant copyright protection. Changing the size and shape of the fins and such is incidental. Adding tube transitions - been there, done that, staging - been there, done that, etc. This leaves you with the ability to copyright the instructions and maybe some decals. Once in a long while a model rocket designer may come up with something truly different that they can copyright but it sure won't happen very often.

Additionally, the models being cloned are mostly old designs that would no longer be protected by copyrights anyway. Design copyrights do not have the longevity of many other copyrighted items. If you want to protect your design then I'd suggest that you create a logo that combines the design with the name and trademark it.

In any event, I suspect that the legal costs of protecting designs would far exceed the money that could be recovered if you took it to court.

Mario
 

jadebox

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As far as model rockets are concerned the copyrights for the various design elements have run out leaving it very difficult to create a design that is different enough from previous designs to warrant copyright protection. Changing the size and shape of the fins and such is incidental. Adding tube transitions - been there, done that, staging - been there, done that, etc. This leaves you with the ability to copyright the instructions and maybe some decals. Once in a long while a model rocket designer may come up with something truly different that they can copyright but it sure won't happen very often.
Copyright applies to the artistic design of a rocket. For example, Carl had to get permission from Boeing to produce the Delta VI kit we sell. Also, look at the bottom of any "Hot Wheels" or die-cast car model you have. You'll see the little circled-C symbol followed by the name of the car company.

A copyright generally covers an entire work. For example, the combination of the decals, paint scheme, relative dimensions, and shapes of fins and nose cone would be copyrightable for a rocket. Specific design elements, such as the distinctive shape of the taillights on a Ford Mustang, are usually protected by a trademark, rather than copyright.

The whole issue of copyrights is complicated. That's why I refered the OP to the Wikipedia articles. Another good source of information is the Library of Congress's site at https://www.copyright.gov/.

-- Roger
 

mperdue

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Copyright applies to the artistic design of a rocket. For example, Carl had to get permission from Boeing to produce the Delta VI kit we sell. Also, look at the bottom of any "Hot Wheels" or die-cast car model you have. You'll see the little circled-C symbol followed by the name of the car company.

A copyright generally covers an entire work. For example, the combination of the decals, paint scheme, relative dimensions, and shapes of fins and nose cone would be copyrightable for a rocket. Specific design elements, such as the distinctive shape of the taillights on a Ford Mustang, are usually protected by a trademark, rather than copyright.

The whole issue of copyrights is complicated. That's why I refered the OP to the Wikipedia articles. Another good source of information is the Library of Congress's site at https://www.copyright.gov/.

-- Roger
While it might be a good idea to CYA against lawsuits utility items cannot be copyrighted. Automobiles are utility items - you can copyright a painting of the car but not the working car. Clothing is a utility item - you can copyright a design printed on the cloth but not the design of a shirt. Sinks, toilets, computer monitors, etc. are all utility items and are not subject to copyright. It can be argued that a flying model rocket is also a utility item, not an artistic one.
 

Micromeister

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Copyright applies to the artistic design of a rocket. For example, Carl had to get permission from Boeing to produce the Delta VI kit we sell. Also, look at the bottom of any "Hot Wheels" or die-cast car model you have. You'll see the little circled-C symbol followed by the name of the car company.

A copyright generally covers an entire work. For example, the combination of the decals, paint scheme, relative dimensions, and shapes of fins and nose cone would be copyrightable for a rocket. Specific design elements, such as the distinctive shape of the taillights on a Ford Mustang, are usually protected by a trademark, rather than copyright.

The whole issue of copyrights is complicated. That's why I refered the OP to the Wikipedia articles. Another good source of information is the Library of Congress's site at https://www.copyright.gov/.

-- Roger
Roger:
That' why most don't quote Wikipedia! It's often misunderstood, misread or misleading. You are correct about copyrights being complicated.

Most parts of a mod-roc are not copyrightable period they are utilitarian. ONLY the Company LOGO as I mentioned earlier is. Art or a printed image of that "art" may be but that's another reason for NEVER painting your models exactly as pictured on the cover card LOL! Not a copyright infringment.
 
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jadebox

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Obviously the "three fins and a nose cone" aspect of a typical model rocket is not copyrightable. But our rockets are generally not designed for just utility - they are also works of art in that we choose elements of the design for aesthetic purposes. For example, a Fliskits ACME Spitfire has different aesthetics than an Estes Mean Machine. It's the aesthetic differences that aren't dictated by functionality that make the rocket designs copyrightable.

-- Roger
 
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troj

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It really depends on the Intent of the modeler.
I think this is a key part of it.

If your cloning the same model (exact size ect) of a currently offered design, then you have no right to do so without written permission of the designer. If on the other hand you are Up or Downscaling that same current design it really a stretch for it to be anything other then a compliment to the designer that you like it so much you the builder are going to all that trouble to resize and build the design its more free Advertizing for the designer. If the design is Oop, then one should Ask for permission to clone same size models for resale but as long as you only producing the model for your own flying pressure there is no harm. Up or Down scale however you wish.
That's a really good description of appropriate behavior.

I'd add that when upscaling or downscaling an existing design, be sure to credit the original creator of the design.

As far as decal go! i've been told many times by Estes industries that I can clone just about any decal sheet they have but I can NOT use their Logo on the models. I have in the past forgotten about that on a few Up and Downscale clones but to date it hasn't been a legal problem:)
I suspect this is why Tango Papa's upscale Mars Lander kits all have the Estes logo replaced with a TP logo.

-Kevin
 

jadebox

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Sorry ... I posted a link to the wrong part of the law. That section makes an exemption to allow "vessel hulls" to be copyrighted even though their design is driven by functionality. I told you copyright law is complicated. :)

I'm not sure how to link directly to it, but you can read a long paper on "Copyright and the Design of Useful Articles" inside the followng book at Google books:

https://books.google.com/books?id=Lgh5ZvPd9mQC&printsec=frontcover

Select "Content" then "National Second Prize." The article provides a good overview as well as references to the specific parts of copyright law that protect designs.

-- Roger
 
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slogfilet

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I'm sure we could get several lawyers in the same room and have them discuss the subject for years. They would come back with a finding that would be no more helpful.

My assumption about the rocketry community is that vendors, designers, and hobbyists support creativity and variations on themes. I'm sure that, according to the letter of the law, it could possibly be a copyright violation to modify a kit without the designer's permission without attaching some kind of disclaimer. However, no designer in the community would pursue legal action because... that's what they want people to do with their designs. It causes them no damage to their business; in fact, it encourages us to buy quality products.

On the other hand, if I tried to start a business selling rocket kits and I came up with a line that looked suspiciously like the LOC lineup, that would be cause for concern. I could see legal action coming from that.

I suppose for the scratch builder, there's a bit of a gray area. If you're using cheaper scratch materials to build a facsimile of a commercial rocket for the purpose of saving money... probably not the best thing. Pony up the money to support the hobby. But there's that "intent" again... part of the learning process is to build your own rockets from scratch. It is reasonable to think that we'd use established designs as "inspiration." Just don't try to pass it off as your own.

While copyright law applies to pretty much everything, we're very different from... the music industry, for example. The culture, community, and finances of that industry are very different from those of rocketry. You don't see major labels allowing much leeway in terms of "borrowing" (without explicit permission and a cut of the $$$.) There have been huge lawsuits over the similarity of just a few notes!

Anyway, dunno where I was really going with this. We're a small community that favors creativity over exclusivity. We have a small group of dedicated companies who sustain the hobby. Often times, they're folks doing it in their spare time, or full time and just trying to break even.

Give credit where credit is due. Support the hobby. Speak up if you feel someone is crossing a line. Keep it civil and recognize that we're all in this for the same reason. The last thing we need in this hobby are legal battles. AP is expensive enough.
 

adrian

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What I find interesting is that neither Estes nor Quest has sued the other into oblivion over the Astra/Alpha, Big Betty/Big Bertha, etc. :)
 

jadebox

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I'm sure we could get several lawyers in the same room and have them discuss the subject for years. They would come back with a finding that would be no more helpful.
I think they'd say that scratch building a clone of an OOP kit or an up- or down-scale of an existing one is not likely to result in any loss in value of the copyright to the copyright holder, so there wouldn't be any reason for the manufacturer to sue.

Estes has given permission for some web sites to publish copies of their instructions (which implies permission to clone) and has given permission to some companies to produce copies of their OOP designs. So, in most cases, the question is moot.

-- Roger
 

evil ed

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Copying (or borrowing from) another manufacturer, "signature" products in particular, may not land you in court, but it will sure as heck get you talked about in the forums.

Since most small manufacturers get a lot of business through the forums, this is not the kind of publicity that attracts customers.

Remember, a little courtesy goes a long way. I hope to release a kit using the same glider as the Flis Triglide. This is a design I used back in 1975, long before Fliskits was in business. A conversation with Jim Flis not only headed off any future ill feelings, but went a long way tward establishing mutual respect.:2:
 

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Copying (or borrowing from) another manufacturer, "signature" products in particular, may not land you in court, but it will sure as heck get you talked about in the forums.

Exactly... a "jury of your peers" so to speak. ;)
 
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Bone Daddy

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Maybe I missed this somewhere in the previous threads. I was talking to a major kit vendor (way cool stuff) and he indicated the biggest area of contention is in the name of the rocket.

Selling a rocket named Big Bertha would quickly get you a letter from Estes asking you to cease and desist use of the name regardless of the design of the rocket. Big Bertha is synonymous with Estes - and an incredibly popular and durable rocket design. I would think they have more invested in the name of a popular rocket than in the design.

But then again, I'm not a lawyer and don't even play one on TV..................
 

sunward

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It really depends on the Intent of the modeler. ...
Nope. Doesn't matter if there is financial gain or not.

... - an infringement is an infringement... unless it's one of the six permitted uses of copyrighted material under the Fair Use provisions. ....
Nothing is permitted under "Fair Use" per say. Fair Use is only a defense. You can still be sued and your defense then becomes Fair Use.

... - Then, the question of whether you gained anything or not comes into play in deciding whether you have complied with the law. ....
Nope. Anything derived from copyright material would still belong to the original copyright holder. eg Fan material.
Copyright Myths

...I'd add that when upscaling or downscaling an existing design, be sure to credit the original creator of the design.....
I would obtain permission from the original creator first. Not only are there copyright issues, but also liability, among others. Say you upscale a rocket with permission of the original designer and then you fly it and hurt someone - does the original designer now become liable?

....Estes has given permission for some web sites to publish copies of their instructions (which implies permission to clone)....
Where does this permission to clone come from?
 

Pat_B

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I had someone rip off an entire 100 page ad publication that I had designed for another client. Unfortunately, copyright lawsuits need to be filed in Federal Courts which makes the filing fees and attorney expenses very expensive to even get started. I was looking at about $2,000 to just get into court, then there were all of the preliminary injunctions/depositions/research, etc. that would add on top of that.

There are also some sticky technicalities with respect to how and when you can collect legal fees in a copyright case that makes it questionable up front whether or not you'll get those expenses back, even if you win the case. I decided on an alternative approach that was nearly free and 100% effective, but we won't go there.

That's probably a very big reason why mfg's don't go after a few people who are cloning.
 

Micromeister

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I had someone rip off an entire 100 page ad publication that I had designed for another client. Unfortunately, copyright lawsuits need to be filed in Federal Courts which makes the filing fees and attorney expenses very expensive to even get started. I was looking at about $2,000 to just get into court, then there were all of the preliminary injunctions/depositions/research, etc. that would add on top of that.

There are also some sticky technicalities with respect to how and when you can collect legal fees in a copyright case that makes it questionable up front whether or not you'll get those expenses back, even if you win the case. I decided on an alternative approach that was nearly free and 100% effective, but we won't go there.

That's probably a very big reason why mfg's don't go after a few people who are cloning.

Couldn't agree with you more Pat, I was going to add a similar experience where one of our sign designs was directly stolen by a competitior after a bidding issue. We did bring suit and won, but it really didn't make any difference as the work went to the competitor anyway more then 3 years before the suit was ever heard, and to date the decade old judgement has yet to paid....not to mention the more the 10k dollars spent on lawyers and other fees in bringing the suit.
Copyright/trademark cases are Super slow and Very expensive!

Like I said in the beginning; Simply asking permission isn't all that hard if your planning on selling a clone kits of the exact model someone else designed but is Oop. If your cloning it for your own use, up or downscaling I won't worry a second about it, the Major manufacturers aren't gonna waste their time and money on such a suit, and the cottage industry kit supplies simply couldn't affort it in the first place, one might bristle, send you a scathing letter full of doom and gloom threats but i'd give dollars to donuts it's never reach a courtroom.

Sunward Your being rediculous with your Liability crap. Responsibility is on the builder/flyer for damage or injury, regardless of what model or design was flown. God such worry about the "What if's" is why the justice system is in the awful shape it is.
 
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sunward

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.... Sunward you're being ridiculous with your Liability crap. Responsibility is on the builder/flier for damage or injury, regardless of what model or design was flown. ....
You are wrong.

As an example - someone builds an upscale kit. ( Does an x-wing ring a bell?). The flight is unstable and someone gets hurt. Any lawsuit would also involve the original designer. There may also be trademark issues. In some cases, the manufacturer is not the original designer.

It is a stretch, but I didn't say it was the only reason. Ask before hand and you shouldn't have a problem - unless you are dealing with the unnamed company that is the subject of this thread.
 

Micromeister

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You are wrong.

As an example - someone builds an upscale kit. ( Does an x-wing ring a bell?). The flight is unstable and someone gets hurt. Any lawsuit would also involve the original designer. There may also be trademark issues. In some cases, the manufacturer is not the original designer.

It is a stretch, but I didn't say it was the only reason. Ask before hand and you shouldn't have a problem - unless you are dealing with the unnamed company that is the subject of this thread.
No sir! that is the purest of Bull.
You must be one who believes if someone shoots another the gun manufacturer is at fault. It's not so, and won't hold up in court any more the if I hit someone with my car and the victim sue's GM. Non-sense..pure non-sense. Lawyers may want to have us think they can but it just AIN'T so.
 

jadebox

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You must be one who believes if someone shoots another the gun manufacturer is at fault. It's not so, and won't hold up in court any more then if I hit someone with my car and the victim sue's GM.
I think Angelo is exaggerating the liability risk for rocketry manufacturers, but the examples you list above happen all the time. I don't know how often the claims "hold up" in court, but people often sue manufacturers - just do Google search for "sue gun manufacturer" and "sue auto maker" and you'll find lots of examples.

Angelo, however, is suggesting that GM might get sued if someone made a copy of a GM product and the copy caused an injury. That seems a bit far-fetched.

-- Roger
 
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