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Copyright in Hardware #oshw

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Copyright in Hardware.

Is hardware not protected by copyright? Well, it probably depends exactly what you mean by hardware. It probably also depends on what jurisdiction you are in.

For example, in the United States, it seems to be the case that circuit layouts are not protected by copyright. This was one of the justifications for the Semiconductor Protection Act of 1984. [3]

But it turns out that there are a number of Israeli court decisions that nonchalantly apply copyright law to protect physical circuits. For example, in the 1981 case of Kotlitzky v. Alkalai, plaintiff manufactured printed circuit boards (“PCBs”) for alarm systems. The District Court of Tel Aviv, relying on the statutory language that protected “charts and plans”, found that the PCBs were protected by copyright law. The court came to same conclusion in the 1991 case of 2307/90 Hadas Engineering Systems Energy v. Haboneh Engineering Systems, Ltd. (1991), where plaintiff manufactured PCBs for thermostats. Plaintiff accused the defendant of copyright infringement in copying those PCBs .The defendant responded that copyright law protected only technical drawings, but not the PCB itself, and there was no evidence that defendant had copied the applicable technical drawings. The court found for the plaintiff, stating without much reasoning that the then-current [4] copyright statute protected the PCB itself as well as the drawings of the circuit.

The court again came to the same conclusion in the 2005 case of Matan Y. Communication and Location Systems v. Miltel Communications Ltd., where plaintiff accused defendants of copying its “electronic cards”. The court found that these “electronic cards” were protected by copyright. The court’s reasoning was in an interim decision to provide a temporary injunction, which unfortunately does not seem to have been published. The case was eventually appealed to the Supreme Court, where the parties did not challenge the District Court’s interpretation of copyright law.

Interesting article, hardware might be copyrightable in some other countries (or here in the USA depending what is defined as hardware)… Read more.


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