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December 3, 2010 AT 3:34 pm

Inventors Who Take No Profits From Their Work

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Inventors Who Take No Profits From Their Work – thanks Robert!

INVENTORS WHO TAKE NO PROFITS FROM THEIR WORK: Give the Results of their Skill and Study Without Charge for the Good of Mankind, Declining Royalties. …the invention herein described and claimed may be used by the Government of the United States or any of its officers or employees… or by any person in the United States, without the payment of any royalty thereon. (PDF).


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15 Comments

  1. this is good but also makes me wonder (and i’ve wondered about it for a while) about how people can get completely screwed out of their idea
    even with the public license
    even with the open source
    a company can still out produce and out sell the inventor
    say you have a great idea, you design it, make it and have it available for sale, yet you want other people to sell your product as well… do you get royalties? under the current situation you wouldn’t have to pay the inventor anything right? maybe you would just to be nice, but you can’t expect businesses to be nice
    a company could start up selling all opensource items and not have to pay inventors anything
    it’s also slightly discouraging for people who want to maybe make just a couple kits and have a place sell it for them

  2. @zuul – can you provide an example of company “selling all opensource items and not have to pay inventors anything” ?

  3. I’ve seen OSS projects hijacked by companies who drown out individual developers through the sheer force of resources (paid developers). Using this approach, it’s possible to completely hijack the design and roadmap of a project, leaving everyone else in the project essentially out in the cold.

    I’m not sure there’s a solution for this, but if you’re concerned about a company out-selling you for software (for instance) then things like the GPL may be a good approach…since they require all derivatives to also be open-source (and therefore something the community can automatically make use of).

    Another approach you see with software sometimes is trademarking. If you trademark the name and prohibit companies from associating themselves with that name, you may have a degree of control. Of course, that assumes you have the resources to retain that control in the courts…

  4. I think he might be saying that if your plans are open source, then DigiKey or Mouser (whose costs are a ton lower due to volume) could sell all of your kits for half of what your cost is.

    But, I haven’t heard of this actually happening anywhere, even though I’d really like it to happen with certain kits… a Makerbot for $300 would be nice, for instance. 🙂

  5. @john – can you post up which “OSS projects [were] hijacked by [which] companies who drown out individual developers through the sheer force of resources (paid developers)”. ?

  6. I don’t know of one but isn’t that theoretically possible?
    I don’t know all the details of open source or creative commons so maybe I’m worng
    but here’s an example of what I’m saying: think of all the arduino clones out there, does the original arduino team see revinue from every seller? probably not
    In that case I don’t think they mind so much because it’s so popular but I could see a large company putting into production an open source project, or their clone of it, and never giving any money to the original

    how could you make sure the original creator doesn’t get completely screwed?

  7. @zuul – if you don’t know of one, and no one else can give an example of “large company putting into production an open source project, or their clone of it, and never giving any money to the original” – then is it really productive or adding value to what *is* going on to talk about something that hasn’t happened?

  8. i think it is productive

    although it may not be happening, it’s not inconcievable that somewhere later on a company will do it.
    history shows us that typically the person who got to the pattent office first is the one who’s widely known as the original inventor even though they may not be.
    I would like to prevent that from happening

    what I wanted you to realize was that yes, we should honor the original inventors and maybe you could suggest this in later open source definitions
    it may turn out to be a benefit towards the inventors and spur more creativity
    some people fear that with open source there will be less creativity (because of time spent on research, not as profitable etc.)
    I’d like to have more creativity and productivity in the world
    I’m all for open source but I just wonder about these things

  9. @zuul — we think that instead of trying to control hypothetical situations that haven’t happened and likely will not happen – it’s more useful to work on hardware, release open source hardware, publish tutorials, make videos, post interesting things here and move things forward.

  10. But you must have some form of business or property insurance, no? So clearly you must feel that in some cases it *is* useful to try to deal with hypothetical situations that haven’t happened and likely will not happen.

    I think zuul is raising a kind of "insurance" question: what would happen if…. Maybe the answer is that you shrug and go on with life if someone makes a fortune off of your hard work. Maybe you don’t. But zuul has a real question and brushing it off is not the way to handle it.

  11. @dashham – property insurance isn’t the same thing as worrying about some company taking your open source hardware design.

    we’ve asked if there are any real examples of companies doing what he is concerned about, that’s fair. so far no one has given an example. who is “making a fortune” off your work?

  12. @adafruit – It happened to the project I work on @Apache: Maven. The company is Sonatype. They’ve employed several people to work solely on rewriting Maven for version 3, which is generally a good thing. However, in the process they’ve achieved enough development velocity – and done enough work behind closed doors – that they’ve basically taken over control of the project. Nothing incredibly bad has happened yet from all of this, but it’s definitely the case that no other group of people can achieve enough influence or momentum in the project to compete.

    It’s a good example of how tainted the open-source world is when you dig below the surface. There are a lot of code dumps and these sort of hollowed-out puppet projects. I imagine most open-source pursuits will have to deal with these sorts of problems. Many groups take different approaches to monetizing open source, but rarely is it done well.

    A few companies I have experience with do manage to make money from open source in an ethical way, but they’re exceptional (at least in the software world).

  13. @john – we asked for examples of open source hardware projects that has been “ripped off by big companies” and are now “making a fortune” – that seemed to be the concern that @zuul had, but so far no examples of that actually happening have been posted.

    you’re saying nothing has happen bad “yet” with the still open source software example you’ve given. so what does that mean exactly? they should be punished for something they didn’t do yet? they should not be allowed to spend their time and resources on an OSS project? we’re not familiar with this project but how is it bad? you’re saying it’s not, so you’ll understand why we’re not getting this example or comparison.

  14. Creativity raises where open source happens and copyright laws are less restrictive because people actually can tinker with it and don’t have to worry to get sued! Those people normaly honor the inventors and ditch the pirats.
    Take a look at Bunny and the currend xBox case.
    Take a look at Bunny and the chumby.
    On chumby.com I see 119$ and on the other hand I see a blog post from him “A chumby-powered device for $49!” without any critism that some one has *stolen* HIS INVENTION oh my god!

  15. Creativity raises where open source happens and copyright laws are less restrictive because people actually can tinker with it and don’t have to worry to get sued! Those people normaly honor the inventors and ditch the pirats.

    Take a look at Bunny and the xBox case.
    Take a look at Bunny and the chumby.
    On chumby.com I see 119$ and on the other hand I see a blog post from him “A chumby-powered device for $49!” without any critism that some one has *stolen* HIS INVENTION oh my god!

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