Heathkit – The electronic history mystery


In 2013 there was a lot of buzz in the electronics communities about Heathkit returning in some way, however it’s been exactly one year and there has not been any updates. Heathkit “came back” in 2011 too, but nothing materialized then either. Here is our attempt to help piece together some of the puzzle of what has become of Heathkit.

First up, what is/was Heathkit?

Heathkit is the brand name of kits and other electronic products produced and marketed by the Heath Company. Their products over the decades have included electronic test equipment, high fidelity home audio equipment,television receivers, amateur radio equipment, electronic ignition conversion modules for early model cars with point style ignitions, and the influential Heath H-8, H-89, and H-11 hobbyist computers, which were sold in kit form for assembly by the purchaser. Heathkit manufactured electronic kits from 1947 until 1992. For a few years the Heath company made products for education, but this business ended in 2008. The company announced in 2011 that they were reentering the kit business after a 20 year hiatus but then filed for bankruptcy in 2012, and began restructuring in 2013 – Wikipedia.

2013 – The big news

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Current screenshot from heathkit.com

1 year ago to the day today (12/20/2013) a member of the “board of directors” CEO/President of whoever may or may not own Heathkit did a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) – it’s unclear who they are, they would not say when asked and there is not any information on their FAQ page about the ownership. During the AMA, the person with the account “HeathCompany” answered in first person, described the “board” and the “CEO” but didn’t provide any details. The person did say “The CEO is avid musician and composer” and as far as the management team claiming to own Heathkit now, the person said they are: “Active in the industry 25+ years ago? Yes. Hams 25+ years ago? Yes.”

On the FAQ page, it has the following:

Q. So who are you guys?
A. More on this later…

It’s been 1 year and there has not been an update on the Heathkit site or Facebook page. They had some type of prize they promised during last year’s Reddit AMA, it’s unknown what happened with that, the winner was an account called “IFoundTheHeathKit” that only posted once. There is a twitter account called “Heathkit” but it’s owned by “Just some guy” in Seattle, WA.

The comments on Heathkit Facebook page have many questions from a year ago that are still unanswered:

Marti Harris:
Why can’t I find names of Board of Directors or people involved with the new start up of Heath Kit? Where are you located? Why the big secret? Is this a legitimate company? Is this for real or a joke? My husband and many friends worked for Heath Kit. We hope it is for real. W3XYL
December 20, 2013 at 7:22pm

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Everything is really vague, even on their own site, heathkit.com

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They had posted a survey, but the SSL cert isn’t working now (expired). You had to take the survey and give an email address to become a “Heathkit Insider” – we did that last year and have not received any emails.

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Searching the United States Trademark Office site, there are few “LIVE” hits for the trademarked name “Heathkit”.

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The first one bring up this up (86435561). Heathkit Company, Inc. CORPORATION DELAWARE c/o Sabety + Associates PLLC 8 West 40th Street, 12th Floor New York NEW YORK 10018. Attorney of Record – Ted Sabety. The filing date is: October 27, 2014 – that’s 2 months ago. We emailed Sabety + Associates we’ll update this post with any details.

You can also see the document here at the Trademark Status & Document Retrieval (TSDR) – use US Serial No: 86435561

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If you search the State of Delaware Department of State: Division of Corporations for “Heathkit” 2 come up.

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Not much information – looks like both HEATHKIT COMPANY, INC. and HEATHKIT HOLDINGS, INC. were registered in Delaware by corporations that register corporations in Delaware, if we do not hear anything from anyone, we’ll pay the $20 and get more info too see if there’s any more information – it says “Additional Information is available for a fee. You can retrieve Status for a fee of $10.00 or more detailed information including current franchise tax assessment, current filing history and more for a fee of $20.00.”

We also found an old PDF about who may own some of the “assets” of Heathkit, but we think that refers to the ownership of the copyright of the manuals, some of which appear to be hosted on http://www.pestingers.net/PDFs/. Who owns the copyright of the Heathkit manuals? It appears to be Don Peterson of Data Professionals. He sells them online.

October 2008 – Data Professionals of Pleasanton California has purchased the Copyrights and existing inventory of all legacy Heathkit product documentation from Heath Company of Benton Harbor Michigan for an undisclosed amount. The new company will make copies of the original legacy manuals available to the marketplace via its web site and through eBay and PayPal.

Don sells some Heathkit kits too. Back in 2011 MAKE Magazine contacted Don via email and phone and he had said he would allow MAKE publish all the schematics of all the kits and the public domain manuals (he’s a very nice person). However, that never materialized after there was some type of issue with the document scanner. Here is the note from Don to MAKE from 2011:

On Jun 27, 2011, at 1:16 PM, Don Peterson wrote:
…we’ve had a minor set back because we just had to replace our Document Imager and discovered that the files on the server are no longer compatible from the old model that we were using. The new machine uses standard PDF files. Give me a week to put together a sampling of schematics that I will email to you and we can go from there…

Don Peterson
Data Professionals

That’s the last we heard about it. We emailed Don to see if he knew what’s up with Heathkit.com too, we’ll update this post with any details he can provide. We also asked Don if the scanner was fixed, and if he is still willing to allow MAKE Magazine or Adafruit or archive.org (or anyone) to publish all the schematics of all the kits and the public domain manuals. We’ll update this post about that too.

Next up – Who owns the heathkit.com domain? The domain name heathkit.com has changed ownership a few times over the years. Depending on what whois record for heathkit.com used, there are multiple contacts listed:

Registrant Name: Heathkit Company
Registrant Organization: Heathkit Company
Registrant Street: 2024 Hawthorne Ave
Registrant City: St Joseph
Registrant State/Province: MI
Registrant Postal Code: 49085
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.2699254499
Registrant Fax: +1.2699253895
Email: [email protected]
Google map (it’s a warehouse or print service?)

Admin Organization: Heathkit
Admin Street: 250 Monroe Ave NW
Admin City: Grand Rapids
Admin State/Province: MI
Admin Postal Code: 49503-2250
Admin Country: US
Admin Phone: +1.2092563061
Admin Fax: +1.2092563061
Admin Email: heathkit-domain-name-mgmt-13@yellow-tulip.com
Administrative Contact, Technical Contact: Mike Elsner [email protected]
455 Riverview Dr, Bldg 2
Benton Harbor MI 49022 US
Phone: +1 269 925 4499
Fax: +1 269 925 3895
Google map (it’s a law firm).

We emailed them all and will update this post with any details we receive.

Why do we care about this?

We get asked about Heathkit all the time from self-described “old-timers” who grew up with Heathkit or worked for the Heathkit company. Adafruit’s educational mission and kits are often compared to the Heathkit of yesteryears ago, we get asked if we’ll develop “Heathkit-style” kits. Many of our customers were customers of Heathkit for decades.

There are not as many people who know about Heathkit now, so when we saw a year ago that something new might be happening with the brand (again) we and many others got very excited. It’s puzzling as to what’s really going on though.

Maybe our post about this will shed some light on this electronic history mystery which is Heathkit 2014. We hope we find out what the plans are for Heathkit, who owns it now, and if this legendary and loved brand is going to return to the educational electronic market.

We’ve also emailed the Heathkit Virtual Museum & Rick Lindquist, WW1ME – The News Editor @ AARL.ORG (The national association for Amateur Radio) to see if they know anything. Lastly, we posted a comment on the Heathkit Facebook page with a link to this article.

Stay tuned here for any updates – Post in the comments here or email [email protected] if you have anything to add or ask too!

-Ladyada, pt & the Adafruit team

Update from a reader 12/21/2014 7:34pm ET

Thanks for posting this. Years ago, I was thrilled to be recruited by Heathkit out of grad-school. Gordon Letwin had just departed for Microsoft… But soon after arriving at their St-Joe HQ, it became apparent that Zenith (their owner at the time) was already in the process of systematically gutting the kit business and repurposing the Heath manufacturing lines for producing Zenith Data Systems computers (essentially pre-assembled Heathkit computers).

Zenith was looking at home computers as a replacement for their failing television business. But attempts to build the Heath-designed computers in their existing idle television plants failed due to quality issues (part of the reason the television business had failed in the first place). So the Heath facility was pressed into service – at the expense of kit manufacturing.

The next phase was getting Zenith marketing involved in the computer design. (And where I started looking for another job). The Zenith advertising slogan at the time was “The quality goes in before the name goes on”. Ironically, the adhesive used to attach the Zenith nameplates to the computers was not compatible with the paint on the cases and most of the nameplates fell off within a month or two – leading to many creative internal slogans.

By that time, most of the engineering staff were polishing up their resumes. There is not much else in the way of High-Tech in the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph area, so most of the engineering talent scattered fairly quickly. Within a year after I left, I didn’t know anyone that still worked there.

Update – December 21, 2014 at 10:33:03 PM EST –

I don’t know anything more than you’ve uncovered about the new owners of the brand, but I worked there for over 20 years, until the very end, and knew all the prior owners and GMs very well… Some of those dates are a little off, especially Wiki. Heathkit built and sold educational materials until the very end. The Hawthorne Ave address is correct, we had a corner of that building that was mostly office space. Moved there in October 2008, and the landlord locked us out in April 2012 after the rent was delinquent. Regarding Don Peterson, Don Desrochers (the owner who let Heathkit go bankrupt in 2012) sold him the physical files full of manuals and sole reproduction rights. Peterson did not acquire the copyrights, which might explain why he can’t make the manuals available for free. I remember seeing that agreement, and it explicitly stated that Heathkit retained the copyrights. Desrochers didn’t want to pay for moving all those manuals, nor lease space to store them. So he sold them for about $4k.

Update – December 22, 2014 at 5:48:03 PM EST –

In October, 21st 2013 a law firm COOKE KOBROCK WU claimed to represent the Heath Company
The lawyer was Stephen Wu http://www.ckwlaw.com/index.cfm/attorneys/ / http://www.ckwlaw.com/)

Update 12/22/2014 6:20pm ET – Heathkit has updated their Facebook page….

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Our friends at Adafruit Industries have been doing some sleuthing, and we agree- it’s time for an update. Happily, there’s plenty to report.

Exciting things are happening in the Heathkit labs. We’re pleased at the great feedback from our beta-testers on a range of quality products we’ve been actively developing. As you know, we had hoped to get several of these new products out for the Christmas market, but our team is creating so many new ideas that we’ve been slowed by the sheer work of creating patents (by law we must file them before we may sell our new products, or even advertise them). We remain hard at work, and as excited as ever to ship finished new products meeting Heathkit’s high standards.

Meanwhile, our team has been expanding. More top-notch technical advisors and advisors have joined the effort, and hand-picked interns have been learning the ropes while earning money for their college degrees. We’ve been carefully building supply chain relationships to keep quality high and prices low, and exploring exciting partnerships that we look forward to announcing. Our soldering irons remain hot, and are being put to good use.

We know you’re as eager as we are to see the newest Heathkit designs released. (Of course thousands of Heathkit® products are bought and sold each week– we participate in this market ourselves, and monitor it closely). For any enthusiasts not yet on our Heathkit Insider email list, that list will be the first place that new product availability is announced. Head over to the FAQ section on our official website to learn how to join the mailing list and also to read the answers to Adafruit’s questions about Heathkit intellectual property. We look forward to building out this FAQ section as more information becomes public.

It’s been an enormous amount of hard work, but our team has risen to the task. You can be confident that as true Heathkit devotees ourselves, we want nothing more than to honor the legendary name that’s graced workbenches and homes for generations. We look forward to providing more news soon.

Until next time,
The Heathkit Team

We posted a comment – we’d like to chat with them if they’re up for it! We are still at [email protected] – Thanks! Ladyada & the Adafruit team. See our original article here.


Along with a ton of other really incredible emails, we received an email from the person who “won” the Heathkit Reddit “Ask me anything” (AMA) – they did not receive their prize or any emails back from Heathkit.

I live in Connecticut, and last year I saw the Heathkit AMA on reddit and thought I’d take the train over to see if I could find the geocache before anybody else. I was… pretty bored? Surprisingly, I found it, posted on Reddit, and messaged them, but nothing else came of it. They didn’t even respond to the message I sent in May. Just put this on Hackaday’s summary of your article and was told to email you. Here are a few screenshots if they’re any help. If you do publish them, please white out my name and profile picture as I’m still a student.

Here is the Hackaday comment, here is the “winner” post on Facebook and Reddit and here is our original article.

Update: DECEMBER 24, 2014 AT 6:30 PM — Looks like this is the final update folks! We spoke with the person claiming to be the president of Heathkit and one of their team members, we agreed not to disclose anything discussed with them on the phone and we requested they send us text to post verbatim on the Adafruit blog, it is here.

Update: Jan 26, 2015, at 12:11 PM – Here’s an update Don Peterson from Data Professionals of Pleasanton California posted that he purchased the copyrights and existing inventory of all legacy Heathkit product documentation from Heath Company in 2008, he had said he would scan them in allow MAKE magazine to publish all the schematics of all the kits and the public domain manual. After our “Heathkit – The electronic history mystery” we emailed Don to check out on the status and he said he cannot be involved with this project.

On Jan 26, 2015, at 12:11 PM, Don Peterson wrote:
It is not going to be possible for me to be involved in this project with you this year.
If things should change, which I doubt, I will contact you.

Don Peterson
Data Professionals

Don’s site still have the following statement on his site “Data Professionals of Pleasanton California has purchased the Copyrights and existing inventory of all legacy Heathkit product documentation from Heath Company of Benton Harbor Michigan for an undisclosed amount. The new company will make copies of the original legacy manuals available to the marketplace via its web site and through eBay and PayPal.

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And Don also sells 2 Heathkit branded kits at this time.

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You can also purchase Heathkit manuals from Don here.

We did find an old PDF about who may own some of the “assets” of Heathkit, but we think that refers to the ownership of the copyright of the manuals, some of which appear to be hosted on http://www.pestingers.net/PDFs/.

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  1. Thank you for checking, many of us grew up using Heathkit gear.

  2. I watched an obscure video of Steve Jobs from the seventies where he mentions that he started out learning as a teenager from mail-order Heathkits. I recall my oldest brother doing the same thing.

  3. Thanks for taking on this task. We all have wondered what is happening with (or what has happened to) Heathkit. I’ll keep watching for your updates, even if they say “nothing new”.

  4. I used to build Heathkit devices “back in the day”; a fantastic hobby. I would be very interested if Adafruit did something similar.

  5. I own more than 20 different Heathkit items and use a few of them every day.

    My favorite item is my GR-24 "lunchbox style" 6-transistor battery powered radio (AM only). I built it as a father’s day gift for my dad in 1970. He used and loved it for 31 years. After my dear dad passed away in 2001, I inherited the radio and I use it every single day. I’m an NPR junkie. The radio has needed very little repair in its 44 years of faithful service.

    It would be fascinating and delightful to see the Heathkit name get resurrected.

  6. Somewhere in my attic is a Heathkit HW2036A, 2-meter transceiver. There’s also probably a 110 MHz frequency counter. Heathkits were fun to build, there was enough information to build and debug them, but only just enough to understand how they worked (I think the circuit descriptions were better or worse, depending on when in the life of the company they were written).

    When I wanted to build an HF rig, I looked around for a while and settled on two guys in California who wanted to do kits “better than Heathkit”, Elecraft. I bought one of the first 100 K2 transceiver kist off the line, and was very impressed, both with the design and the quality of the kit.

  7. Christopher Elliott

    I never put any HeathKit projects together, but I remember in the 80’s while I was still in grade school my father put together a HeathKit television, big 20-30″ tube. He never did get around to building a case for it. So one can imagine the respect (and fear of my father’s wrath) I learned for exposed HV electronics and exposed trim components. (Oh, I just so wanted to turn those dainty little knobs…) I do remember as it got older, when it would start to act up, my brother and I were encouraged to gently press down on all the socketed transistors to re-seat them (they were mounted horizontally) before calling him. I did learn a lot of troubleshooting concepts from him working on that TV.

    At one point the HeathKit TV lived on top of the old dead tube TV (so I did live as a “You might be a redneck…” joke for a little bit) because the tube TV was from when electronic devices were sold built into cabinetry quality furniture. I think eventually my father gutted the old tube TV and converted it into a low side-board.

  8. I built my H-89 in Jan 1980, and quickly added a floppy drive to run HDOS, then CP/M. I still have the computer, but need to checkout the power supply. It might need a new regulator transistor – again. I first built a HeathKit AM radio kit, and a couple of small kits after the H-89. I loved their clear instructions! When I got to step 601 of the H-89, it beep-beeped as it should! If it hadn’t, I”m not sure how I would have proceeded!

    I hope somebody brings HeathKit back!

  9. My first piece of test gear was an old Heathkit oscilloscope I bought fully assembled at a yard sale when I was a teenager. Sadly, it was stolen from me a year or two later.

    Currently among my ham and test gear resides a Heathkit transistor tester, and a Heath-Zenith frequency counter. The transistor tester was built by my father many years ago and recently given to me. The frequency counter was purchased at NEARfest, a ham radio flea market that crops up near here twice a year.

    I think that any company (bearing the Heathkit name or not) looking to get a corner on the electronics kit market would do well to seek out the relatively large number of kits coming out of China and being sold in various places across the internet, and consolidate them into one place. Having one to visit only one site to find anything kit related would be a huge advantage to both buyers and sellers, in my opinion.

  10. It seems to me that there were two aspects to HeathKit’s kits that cause people to remember them warmly: extremely clear assembly instructions, and professional quality enclosures. The former made for a high degree of success in assembly, and the latter gave a sense of having built a piece of equipment that was the equal of brand-name offerings in terms of appearance.

    I’ve assembled a number of kit projects (XR2206 function generator, Arduino clone, Sparkfun’s Mr. Roboto, capacitance meter, plus others) and while I’ve enjoyed building most of them the quality of build instructions varied widely, and I’ve always wished I had more than just a populated PCB at the end.

    HeathKit is gone. Who will take the best of what that company offered and make it their own? Why can’t there be AdaKits?

  11. Update just posted: https://www.facebook.com/heathcompany?fref=nf

  12. “…we’ve been slowed by the sheer work of creating patents (by law we must file them before we may sell our new products, or even advertise them).”

    This doesn’t sound promising.

  13. The thing at concerns me is that all there is left is a brand and a bunch of nostalgia to go with it. If they were talking about reviving some of the old designs that are relevant and buildable today it would be interesting. What makes them any different from somone else who hires a nuch of people and churns something out?

  14. We set out to do something similar, to make HiFi audio kits to fill the part of the gap Heathkit left. Before we went into business, we really worried, why did they quit? Why aren’t they around? The only answer we could piece together was that their business model became obsolete. They marketed their kits on the concept that you could make it cheaper than you could buy it. Too soon, as integrated circuits and cheap labor came to the fore, it was impossible to compete. We decided we had to be different, more like Adafruit.

    This is from our FAQ:

    Are you like the old Heathkit?

    No, they made kits that looked like and worked like the commercial gear you could buy, but you could make it yourself for cheaper.
    We make kits that are nothing like the commercial stuff you can buy. You can only get something like this if you make it yourself no matter what the cost.

    We found though, that people still want their bargain, so it’s been a tough sell. I think that’s part of why Heathkit hasn’t come back yet.

    I’d love to be proved wrong. Is DIY HiFi still of interest, really? There’s a lot of action around tubes these days, but that’s out of reach for beginners and education. We’re trying to help the absolute beginner, but it could be just too expensive.

    Folks spend plenty on microcontrollers, micro-computers, and robots. Why not audio? Anybody have thoughts on that?

  15. I put together two wonderful Heathkits. An H-88 which quickly became a H-89. I remember the first piece of code I wrote for it (using the rom debugger) was a interrupt driven terminal emulator so I could use my modem to log into work. It was a great feeling of accomplishment to both complete the computer and to get a small machine language program working with just the built in debugger.

    Since I was interested in building more computers, my 2nd kit was a 5Mhz dual trace scope. I remember my dismay opening the box and finding bag after bag of components. The well written and detailed assembly instructions got me though the build. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of loaning it to someone at work and years later, when I tried to retrieve it, it had ‘disappeared’. I would love to build another kit like that.

  16. I build a lot of Heathkits, well over 100. When I was stationed up in North Dakota a local school district bought about 100 Heathkit test instrument kits for their TV repair program. Their first idea was to have the students assemble them, but they quickly realized that they needed someone who was very familiar with building electronic equipment to build all those kits. Somehow they found me. I spent several months building VTVMs, dot/bar generators, and oscilloscopes. The toughest kit was the sweep generators for aligning the TV IF amplifiers. I learned to hate unijunction divider circuits.
    Heathkit provided superb documentation. But the circuits and parts they used were not so superb. Those IC and transistor sockets were a disaster.
    In the early 70’s, thousands of Vets signed up for TV repair courses under the GI bill. The courses typically were centered around building the big Heathkit color TV. The TV had it’s own built-in test equipment, so it was a pretty good way of teaching how a color TV worked.

  17. here is the exif data from an unpublished photo on the heathkit.com webserver. Pretty accurate too. shows a fairly run down part of town (at least it appears this way from the streetview. Don’t know how this helps but it’s another piece of info for you!


  18. I took their survey twice, provided a valid e-mail both times, and not once have I gotten so much as an e-mail response from anyone attached to the Heathkit website (despite their claims/promises in the FAQ). My survey answers were thorough, my credentials were strong, and I thought for sure that even if they had no use for services I would have provided gratis, at least they’d add me to their “Insiders” mailing list. Nada. Zippo. Zilch.

    Really frustrating.

  19. I’m new to Adafruit and the blog, and have been catching up on the Heathkit saga. My experience with Heathkits spanned the late 50’s and much of the 60’s, when I was in elmentary and secondary school, and then university. I can remember building a transistor radio, several audio amplifiers, several high voltage power supplies, a Vacuum Tube Voltmeter (VTVM), an oscilloscope, a multimeter, and several ham radio transmitters and receivers. My dad bought the kits and we built them together. Great fun. They kept me busy and out of trouble during my teen years! I remember the Heathkits of old as having great instructions, and high-quality, good-looking enclosures
    Now that I’m retired and pushing 70, I’ve been thinking about getting back into electronic kit building. I’m sure I’ll be spending more time with Adafruit and the blog.
    Merry Christmas to all, from Canada!

  20. My hunch is that the author of the Facebook updates is Ted Sabety.

    If you look at Sabety’s background at his website you’ll see that he’s an EE who later switched to practicing law. Ergo, he would likely be aware of HeathKit and of the 2012 bankruptcy. In addition, Sabety’s Facebook page contains two references to a 2013 change in US patent law, stating that patents must be filed while products are in development.

    In addition, the geocache mentioned on the HeathKit page was hidden in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Sabety is based in NYC (looks like he’s also guitarist for a band called "The New Irrelevants", which might make him an "avid musician and composer").

  21. I am getting increasingly annoyed and suspicious that Heathkit is another case of vaporware. The FAQ f you can call it that and their avoidance of answering simple questions makes me think they are more interested in suing than shipping products.


    Q. Who owns Heathkit’s intellectual property?
    A. Heath Company owns all Heathkit® intellectual property – all trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. (This includes, for example, all current and historical Heathkit product designs, patents, manual copyrights, schematics, lines of business, contract rights, customer lists, relationships, marketing plans, photos, videos, trade dresses, catalog rights, textbook copyrights, logos, publication designs….) 100% of it. Under U.S. and international copyright and other applicable IP law, this also means we own the rights over derivative works (roughly: if someone copies our intellectual property, we own rights over their work too). Of course, this is great news for Heathkit fans and customers. You want all the Heathkit® IP in one place under one roof. It means Heathkit can keep being Heathkit.

    Q. I read on the Internet that someone else owns the copyrights to Heathkit® manuals.
    A. No, not correct. (At least Wikipedia got this right.) Heathkit has in the past given a contractual license to certain specific parties granting a limited right to reprint and sell paper copies of specific obsolete Heathkit manuals, to better serve valued Heathkit customers on those special occasions when you spill coffee on your original kit manual. Such reprinting agreements are designed to outsource Heathkit’s reprinting operations to smaller companies who can provide replacement manuals cost-effectively but do not convey Heathkit’s intellectual property, only a big stack of old files together with permission to reprint authorized paper photocopies. All Heathkit® copyrights remain with Heathkit.

    Q. So Heath Company owns all Heathkit® copyrights?
    A. Yes. All Heathkit® copyrights, and all Heathkit intellectual property, are property of Heath Company.

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